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Spain’s parliament to give final approval to amnesty law for Catalonia’s separatists

In World
May 30, 2024

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s Parliament is expected to give the final approval Thursday to a controversial amnesty law for hundreds of Catalan separatists involved in the illegal and unsuccessful 2017 secession bid.

The legislation is backed by Spain’s left-wing coalition government, two Catalan separatist parties, and other smaller parties. It is expected to pass despite the conservative Popular Party and far-right Vox voting against it.

The amnesty could benefit former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, who is a fugitive from Spanish law in Belgium after fleeing his country following the failed Oct. 2017 breakaway bid that he led. It should also help out hundreds more, including former government officials in Barcelona, average citizens who participated in the secession attempt or protests, and some police officers involved in the crackdown on an illegal independence referendum held by Puigdemont’s government.

The passing of the amnesty law, however, does not immediately clear up the legal mess of the separatists.

The law is likely to face legal challenges and will be reviewed by higher courts. It also must be applied by courts on a case-by-case basis. There are experts who question its constitutionality since they say it would create inequality between Spanish citizens by favoring some over others.

Since taking power in 2018, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has focused on reducing tensions in northeast Catalonia and he argues that the amnesty is key to culminating that process.

But the amnesty was also a political necessity for Sánchez, who agreed to the act of pardon when he needed the support of the separatist lawmakers in Madrid to form a new national government in November. It was initially approved by the Parliament’s lower house in March. The Senate, where right-wing parties hold a majority, rejected it earlier this month, but the lower house can push it through regardless.

While the amnesty is popular in Catalonia, even among many unionists, the Popular Party and Vox have led protests against it in Madrid and other cities across the country. There have also been critics of the amnesty within Sánchez’s Socialist party.

It comes during the runup to European Parliament elections on June 6-9 and when Sánchez’s Socialists are trying to form a government in Catalonia after beating the separatists in regional elections earlier this month.

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Joseph Wilson reported from Barcelona, Spain.

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