Spanish parliament passes controversial bill amnesting Catalonia for separatist crimes

  • Spain’s parliament has approved an amnesty bill pardoning Catalan separatists for crimes committed during the failed 2017 independence referendum.
  • During the 2017 crisis, Catalonia’s regional government held a referendum against Madrid’s order.
  • The bill’s passage remains uncertain, facing veto in the conservative-majority Senate.

spanish parliament A controversial amnesty bill was approved on Thursday aimed at pardoning crimes – both proven and alleged – committed by Catalan separatists during the region’s chaotic independence referendum six years ago.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez advocated amnesty as a way to move away from Catalonia’s then-leader’s 2017 attempt to split the country. Catalonia is a northeastern region centered around Barcelona, ​​where many people speak the local Catalan and Spanish languages.

However, the bill has also been opposed by millions of Spaniards who see it as provoking one of Spain’s biggest political crisis Should face charges including embezzlement of public funds and inciting public disorder.

Spanish parliament to vote on controversial amnesty bill for Catalan separatists

Sanchez has pardoned nine jailed Catalan independence leaders, a move that has helped heal wounds at little political cost. But the amnesty proved more divisive.

On March 14, 2024, Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Maria Jesus Montero and Spanish Second Deputy Prime Minister and Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz appeared in Madrid, Spain Spanish Parliament. Spain’s parliament on Thursday approved a controversial amnesty bill aimed at pardoning crimes committed by Catalan separatists during the region’s chaotic independence referendum six years ago. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

The bill passed with a vote of 178 to 172 in the lower house of Madrid’s parliament, which has 350 seats.

The secession crisis erupted in 2017 when the regional government led by Carles Puigdemont held an independence referendum in defiance of orders from the national government and an unconstitutional ruling by Spain’s Supreme Court. Madrid sent in police to try to stop the referendum, but was met with opposition by protests that turned violent.

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The Catalan Parliament declared independence on October 27 of that year, but failed to gain any international support. Puigdemont and several other senior officials later fled Spain.

Hundreds or thousands of people in Catalonia face the threat of prosecution related to the referendum or protests, while Puigdemont and other leaders remain abroad.

A recent court investigation accused the former regional terrorism leader of allegedly masterminding massive protests in 2019 that resulted in violent clashes with police and the closure of roads, train lines and Barcelona airport.

Sanchez agreed to the amnesty in an effort to gain support from two Catalan separatist parties, which an inconclusive national election last July turned into loyalists of the king.

The conservative opposition accuses Sanchez of selling out the rule of law in exchange for re-election at Moncloa Palace and has organized massive street protests in recent months.

Socialist parliamentary speaker Patsy López defended the bill on Thursday as a move to seek a page-turning “reconciliation” with Catalonia.

Opposition Popular Party leader Alberto Núñez Fejo shot back, saying, “This is not reconciliation, this is surrender.”

It’s unclear whether the deal will increase the stability of Sanchez’s minority government: Puigdemont’s separatist Junts party says Sanchez owes them an amnesty because they support him remaining in power and their potential support for his policies will Depends on what they get in return.

The bill still faces some procedural steps before becoming law. The conservative-majority Senate is expected to reject the bill, meaning the lower house of parliament will have to vote in favor of it a second time to pass it.

Sánchez’s party will struggle to craft a bill that satisfies separatists and is certain to come under intense scrutiny by the courts. Congress rejected an earlier version of the bill in late January, when Junts said it did not go far enough to protect Puigdemont. The bill was then sent back to a parliamentary committee, where it was tweaked to meet Junts’ needs.

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Puigdemont now lives in Belgium and is a member of the European Parliament. He is a fugitive from Spanish justice and calls himself a political exile.

Thursday’s vote came a day after Catalonia’s regional leader called for snap elections. The decision added more uncertainty to Spanish politics and led Sanchez to cancel his 2024 budget plans as he struggled to gain support from the two separatist parties during the elections.

Oriol Bartomeus, Professor of Political Science Autonomous University of Barcelona, said Sanchez’s government remains weak despite clearing obstacles to amnesty. But early elections in Catalonia have bought him at least some time.

Spain’s Sanchez defends controversial amnesty deal with Catalan separatists

Bartomeus told The Associated Press: “The benefit for Sanchez is that if the Socialists do well in the Catalan elections, he can take a breather rather than now having to face some extremely difficult budget negotiation.”

After the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, Spain granted a blanket amnesty during its transition to democracy. But legal experts are divided over whether amnesty for Catalan separatists is constitutional. Critics of the law say it favors Spaniards from one region and violates the principle of equality among Spaniards.

The government said the amnesty could help hundreds of people, while pro-independence Catalan group Omnium Cultural said it should benefit about 4,400 people, mostly petty officials and ordinary citizens who either helped organize the referendum or participated protest activity.

Whether amnesty is applicable will be determined by the courts on a case-by-case basis.

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By Ali Raza

I am a dedicated and skilled News Content Writer with a passion for delivering accurate and engaging stories to a diverse audience. With a solid background in journalism and a keen eye for detail, I bring a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of the evolving media landscape.

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