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Spanish cabinet to grant jailed Catalan leaders 'reversible' pardons, say media reports

Leaks suggest pro-independence politicians and activists could again be imprisoned if they break the law

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31 May 2021 06:48 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

For weeks, Spanish government officials and members of the ruling Socialist party have paved the way for a contentious and politically-charged decision that will come to define Pedro Sánchez's presidency: pardoning Catalonia's jailed pro-independence leaders.

Officials at Spain's Justice Ministry have begun writing the legal report detailing the pardons, cabinet sources told ACN.

While Sánchez's decision has yet to be officially announced, media reports are already shifting the focus from the "if" to the "how", with some leaks revealing the technicalities of the measure that will affect politicians and activists sentenced for calling a referendum and trying to break away from Spain in 2017.

As reported on Sunday by Spain's largest newspaper, El País, Sánchez plans to approve the measure in a cabinet meeting held no later than the beginning of July, despite some reports suggesting that it would be in his best political interests to do so during the holiday break in August to reduce public opinion backlash.

A team of high-ranking officials led by Spain's justice minister Juan Carlos Campo, who is in turn an expert on presidential pardons, is drafting the legal argumentation supporting the measure.

With the opposition People's Party and far-right Vox preparing to legally challenge the pardons, Sánchez’s colleagues fear courts could overturn them and deal a major blow to the government (the Supreme Court, which tried the leaders in the first place, issued a non-binding report rejecting the pardons.)

According to El País, the cabinet will grant "partial" and "reversible" pardons, meaning that Catalan leaders will have the years of their prison sentences reduced to the point they no longer need to spend time in jail, but the measure could be lifted if they were again found guilty of a criminal offense.

With prison sentences ranging from 9 to 13 years, the nine leaders were also banned from holding public office for equally lengthy periods, but such prohibition will most likely remain in place.

In parallel, Sánchez’s cabinet says it’s preparing a reform of the criminal code to reduce the number of years in prison carried by the crime of sedition, which would in turn provide a more sound legal foundation for the pardons.

Madrid rally on June 13

With Catalonia and its independence ambitions long being a galvanizing issue for Spain’s right-wing parties, Sánchez is already feeling the pressure from opposition parties accusing him of granting pardons in exchange for crucial parliamentary support from pro-independence parties.

"Sánchez wants to pardon himself," said Teodoro García Egea, the secretary-general of the People's Party. 

He also announced that the party head, Pablo Casado, who is also the opposition head in congress, will attend a march called on June 13 in Madrid to reject the pardons.

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  • Jailed Catalan politicians and activists Jordi Cuixart, Josep Rull, Jordi Sànchez and Oriol Junqueras leave Lledoners prison to travel to Madrid for their trial, February 1, 2019 (Catalan government)

  • Jailed Catalan politicians and activists Jordi Cuixart, Josep Rull, Jordi Sànchez and Oriol Junqueras leave Lledoners prison to travel to Madrid for their trial, February 1, 2019 (Catalan government)

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