Delay for pardons of jailed leaders not on purpose, says Spain's justice minister
Requests made in autumn 2019, as Supreme Court still yet to submit its non-binding report to cabinet
The pardons for the pro-independence jailed leaders remain in process, exactly one and a half years after their convictions in Spain's Supreme Court and 16 months after some of the first requests were lodged for them to be released.
Stemming from an 1870 law, it is ultimately down to the Spanish government to decide whether to accept each pardon – and on Thursday, Spanish justice minister Juan Carlos Campo said in an interview with Catalunya Ràdio that the cabinet is still waiting for the non-binding report from the Supreme Court to make their decision.
He added that the judges are not delaying submitting their report on purpose even though it has been weeks since they received the papers they requested from the public prosecutor, the solicitor general, and the court of auditors on the issue.
The public prosecutor sided against releasing them, while the solicitor general did not take sides but confirmed they had paid the bail requested by the court of auditors.
The pardon requests are following a "normal" pace, Campo emphasized, as according to him, the average time to resolve them is between 10 and 14 months.
Several individuals have requested a pardon for the jailed independence leaders in the past year, including lawyer Francesc Jufresa on December 23, 2019, who made a petition for the 12 convicted officials.
Different outcomes for each jailed leader?
Campo avoided anticipating what the cabinet's stance could be, but he suggested that some, but not all of them, could be pardoned. "Each request could have its own outcome," he said, adding that the timings could also be different.
In any case, the minister said that he is not concerned about the potential "political cost" of their decision.
"The government will make a responsible decision, whatever it is," he told Catalunya Ràdio.
Campo announced on September 23, 2020, that his department had accepted the pardon requests for consideration, the same day he also explained that the executive is working on a reform of the criminal code, including lowering the crime of sedition.
On Thursday, he said his office is "making progress," but nothing specific has been announced yet this would be another path to releasing the jailed leaders or shortening their remaining time behind bars, as all nine are serving a sentence for, at least, the crime of sedition.
Pardon: middle-ground solution
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."