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Proposal to pardon jailed Catalan separatists sparks protests in Madrid

As many as 25,000 people attended.

Image: Alberto Sibaja

RIGHT-WING PROTESTERS TOOK to the streets of Madrid this afternoon to denounce controversial Spanish government plans to offer pardons to the jailed Catalan separatists behind the failed 2017 independence bid.

Around 25,000 people, according to police estimates, gathered in Madrid’s Plaza de Colon at midday (11am Irish time), with the leaders of the opposition Popular Party (PP) and the far-right Vox faction, Pablo Casado and Santiago Abascal, in attendance.

The demonstration aims to turn up the heat on Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who has called for understanding over the planned gesture that has dominated political debate for weeks and reactivated controversy over Catalan separatism.

“Sanchez should take note: he’ll pardon (the separatists), but the Spanish people won’t pardon him,” said Madrid mayor and PP spokesman, Jose Luis Martinez Almeida.

During an official visit to Argentina on Wednesday, Sanchez said he understood that “there may be people who could have objections over this decision that the government may take, given what happened in 2017″, adding:

But I ask for your trust. I ask for understanding and for magnanimity because the challenge facing all of us – to promote coexistence – is worth it.

Although Sanchez’s left-wing government has not said anything concrete on the matter, all indications suggest the pardons will be granted before the summer break.

Spain’s Supreme Court has also opposed the move to offer clemency to those convicted over their role in a referendum and a short-lived declaration of independence, saying it saw “no evidence or indication of remorse” from the prisoners to justify any such pardon.

The Supreme Court convicted 12 Catalan separatists for their role in the crisis, with nine of them handed jail terms of between nine and 13 years in October 2019.

The prisoner serving the longest sentence of 13 years is Oriol Junqueras, head of the ERC (the Republican Left of Catalonia) which is a key parliamentary ally for Sanchez’s government.

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jailed-catalan-leader-demands-freedom-after-eu-court-ruling Oriol Junqueras (left) with Carles Puigdemont, former president of the Catalan government Source: PA Images

In a letter published on Monday, Junqueras signalled support for the idea of a pardon from Madrid after previously rejecting the idea out of hand, also admitting that the separatists had made errors back in 2017.

“We must be mindful of the fact that our response was also not seen as fully legitimate by part of society,” he wrote.

He also expressed support for a Scottish-style referendum carried out in agreement with Spain — an option which Madrid is not willing to discuss.

 © – AFP, 2021

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