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Spanish MPs agree to amnesty Catalan separatists

Photo: Manu Fernandez Associated Press Oriol Junqueras, leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), applauds after the adoption of the amnesty law.

Christian Chaise – Agence France-Presse in Madrid

11:04 a.m.

  • Europe

Spanish deputies voted Thursday for an amnesty law for Catalan separatists convicted or prosecuted for the aborted 2017 secession attempt in Catalonia, a key measure for socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, but very controversial .

Negotiated by Mr. Sánchez's Socialist Party with the two Catalan independence parties, whose support is essential for him to be able to govern, the measure was adopted by 178 votes to 172, out of a total of 350 deputies .

It must now be submitted to the Senate, controlled by the right, fiercely opposed to this measure and which has promised to delay its examination as long as possible. The text will then have to return to the lower house and its final adoption is not expected before May.

His approval constitutes a political success for Mr. Sánchez, who however did not speak, entering the chamber just before the vote.

This amnesty law is the most controversial text on which Parliament has had to decide since Mr. Sánchez came to power in 2018.

The vote took place in a climate of extreme tension between the left-wing government and the People's Party (the main right-wing opposition), which throw accusations of corruption at each other on a daily basis since weeks. The PP and the far right consider this law a case of “corruption”.


In a speech before the vote, PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo launched a devastating attack on the measure, claiming that “this law divides Spain in two” and denouncing “an absolute absence of scruples and convictions” on the part of Mr. Sánchez.

“This law will be approved because it is the only way for Mr. Sánchez to remain president of the government for a little while longer,” he continued.

It “is not reconciliation” with Catalonia put forward by the government to justify it, “it is submission” to the separatists, he said.

The amnesty, which is expected to benefit around 400 people, aims to end prosecutions and annul convictions stemming from the events of 2017, when the Catalan regional government, chaired by Carles Puigdemont, unilaterally organized a referendum on illegal self-determination, the worst political crisis in the contemporary history of Spain.

Mr. Three years ago, Sánchez pardoned nine independence activists convicted for their role in the events of 2017, but assured during the campaign for the July legislative elections that he was opposed to an amnesty.

The electoral arithmetic, however, forced him to change his mind, because the results of the July 23 vote returned the support of the two Catalan independence parties — Together for Catalonia (JxCat), of Mr. Puigdemont, who lives in exile in Belgium since 2017 to escape Spanish justice, and Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) — essential for its return to power.

A first vote on an amnesty law took place on January 30, but it ended in a humiliating rejection for Mr. Sánchez, with all seven deputies from Mr. Puigdemont's party voting against a text that they considered insufficient.

The fear of Mr. Puigdemont, who led the 2017 unilateral independence attempt and is still the subject of an arrest warrant, was that the bill, as it was then designed, does not protect him against possible prosecution for terrorism or treason.

A month later, the highest Spanish judicial body announced the opening of an investigation against him for “terrorism”.

The socialists therefore had to reopen negotiations and accept JxCat's demands.

A “free” Catalonia

The new version of the law voted on Thursday by deputies no longer contains any reference to the Spanish penal code and takes as its sole criterion European standards, which give a different definition of terrorism.

As if he was already anticipating the appeals that will inevitably be filed against the law with the Spanish courts, one of the seven JxCat deputies, Josep María Cervera, emphasized before the vote that the text was “in accordance with international law.”

But he also issued an unambiguous warning to socialists about his party's intentions. Addressing the government directly, he stressed that despite the amnesty, “the political and historical conflict between the Catalan nation and the Spanish nation still exists.”

What the amnesty law does, he said, is “create an opportunity to directly negotiate the future of Catalonia, a Catalonia that we want free”, in other words independent.

Showing very optimism, Mr. Puigdemont declared Wednesday evening to the press in the corridors of the European Parliament, of which he is a member, that the amnesty law would come into force “probably at the end of May” and envisaged his return to Catalonia in the following weeks.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116