Spanish government decision on pardoning jailed leaders nears after report

Solicitor general avoids taking a side, non-binding Supreme Court review remains last step before final cabinet decision

State Attorney Rosa María Seoane, during the interrogation of pro-independence activist Jordi Turull in the Supreme Court, February 19, 2019 (Supreme Court)
State Attorney Rosa María Seoane, during the interrogation of pro-independence activist Jordi Turull in the Supreme Court, February 19, 2019 (Supreme Court) / ACN

ACN | Madrid

March 30, 2021 05:34 PM

The Spanish government's decision on whether to pardon the nine pro-independence jailed leaders became one step closer on Tuesday.

The solicitor general – representing the cabinet in the trial on the 2017 referendum leaders – avoiding taking a side in their report, which they have handed in to the Supreme Court.

Yet, the institution did confirm that the €4.1m bail required to pay off the potential cost of the referendum in civil liability – has already been paid.

This report had been the only one outstanding, before the Supreme Court is able to have its say on the pardons – the public prosecutor had already sided against releasing the nine imprisoned politicians and activists.

The next step in the process is the magistrates issuing their non-binding opinion, before the Spanish government takes a final decision.

Path to pardon

In September 2020, the Spanish government announced it would begin considering the pardon request for the jailed Catalan pro-independence leaders within a week.

In a plenary session in Congress, Spain's justice minister, Juan Carlos Campo, said that his cabinet would accept the request "for consideration."

Several individuals have requested a pardon for the jailed leaders, including the lawyer Francesc Jufresa, on December 23, 2019, who made a petition for the 12 convicted officials, nine of whom were given prison sentences.

The deliberation process is meant to take up to one year, but it has already moved well beyond that, and with more steps still to come.

A pardon may be viewed as a middle-ground solution that makes neither side happy.

While pro-independence parties demand an amnesty law that nullifies the Supreme Court verdict that sentenced their leaders for sedition, Spain's right-wing parties threaten the Socialist-led coalition government with legal action for what they see as a concession to the "enemies of Spain."

31 officials to face trial on referendum-related expenses

In January 2020, Spain's Court of Auditors requested a €4.1m bail for 31 officials during the 2017 independence push, including former president Carles Puigdemont, the other exiled leaders, the nine jailed leaders and a number of other high-ranking officials still awaiting trial.

Donations from pro-independence supporters paid off that money, and the Court of Auditors continues its investigation into their civil liability after the Supreme Court sentencing on the convicted leaders only specified that €2.02m of public money were misused.

All 31 officials expect a trial that might end up with them being required to pay the amounts already deposited on bail – they will be able to appeal in the Court of Auditors, and also lodge a final appeal before the Supreme Court.