Spanish Premier Makes the Case for Pardoning Catalan Separatists

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he is ready to consider pardons for the imprisoned Catalan separatist leaders who tried to break away from Spain almost four years ago, arguing that it’s a necessary step for the country to move forward.

“The decision we will have to make is a decision to open up a new phase,” Sanchez said at a press conference Monday. The alternative, he said, “would be leaving things stuck in 2017.”

Eleven leaders of the pro-secession movement are serving prison sentences for their roles in organizing an illegal referendum and then attempting to declare independence. Among them is Oriol Junqueras, the leader of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, who was vice president of the regional government at the time and is now a key figure in Spain’s complicated parliamentary math.

Sanchez’s minority government is propped up by votes from Esquerra and the prime minister has had to cut deals with Junqueras’s lieutenants in order to pass key legislation.

Sanchez said he and his cabinet will discuss the pardons once they have been requested by the justice ministry, a step expected to happen in the near future. He said the cabinet will consider other opinions, including by the Supreme Court and the prosecutor’s office.

Last week, Spain’s top court issued a non-binding opinion against pardons. One of the court’s arguments was that criminals need to make an apology before they can be pardoned and that step hasn’t happened yet.

Talk of pardons is sparking outrage among conservatives who consider the separatists traitors. Pablo Casado, leader of the main opposition People’s Party, has said he may join protests against the pardons in June.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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