Spain’s cabinet is aiming for a fresh start and pardons Catalans


MADRID (AP) – The Spanish cabinet meets on Tuesday to pardon nine jailed Catalans who led efforts to establish an independent republic in the affluent northeastern region in 2017, a move that Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said is needed to bring about a reconciliation.

The move was opposed by Spain’s right wing and many on the left and turned into a risky political game for Sánchez, the socialist leader.

But his left minority coalition needs the support of Catalan lawmakers to pass new budgets and major laws. And the prime minister has insisted that a tough approach or inaction by previous conservative governments could not resolve the deepening conflict.

“With this action we are materially getting nine people out of prison, but symbolically we are adding millions and millions of people to coexistence,” said the Prime Minister on Monday in Barcelona, ​​the Catalan regional capital, during a speech in which he gave the pardons announced.

A statement from the prime minister’s office on Tuesday said the government “has decided to face the problem and seek unity to pave the way for reconciliation and reunification”.

Europe’s leading human rights body, the Council of Europe, backed the pardons in a resolution passed by its assembly late Monday. But the non-binding recommendations also blamed Spain for restricting the freedom of expression of Catalan politicians. The Spanish Foreign Ministry replied that the separatists had been convicted by independent courts for violating the law, not just expressing their desire for independence.

Tensions over secession in the Catalan-speaking region of 7.5 million people rose seriously a decade ago amid recession-related economic hardship and dissatisfaction with a Conservative government opposed to greater autonomy.

They faced each other in October 2017 when separatists passed a unilateral declaration of independence based on the results of a referendum ruled illegal by Spanish supreme courts. The vote was boycotted by the union side and took place amid a police crackdown to stop it.


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