Jailed leader suggests support for pardons although goal remains amnesty
Spanish government may release leaders before summer, as two presidents meet briefly at business event
The former Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras, in jail for almost four years for his role in the 2017 independence referendum, has suggested he would support the granting of a pardon for him and the other eight politicians and activists behind bars, something that could happen in the coming weeks.
The jailed leaders and their parties have been demanding for months that Spain put forward an amnesty law to end all judicial procedures stemming from the independence campaign over the past decade, rather than a pardon that would only affect the nine imprisoned, and not those in exiled or indicted.
While in an article published by the daily Ara on Monday, Junqueras prioritizes an amnesty, he also mentions the fact that the Spanish government might be considering a pardon: "There are gestures that can ease the pain of repression and the suffering of Catalan society, and any gesture along the lines of dejudicializing the conflict helps it."
Junqueras is president of Esquerra, the party that prevailed in the February 14 election within the independence camp – something that, after three months of talks, led to senior official Pere Aragonès becoming Catalan president last month.
The new cabinet is prioritizing engaging in dialogue with Spain, like the jailed leader in his article: "Dialogue and negotiation are essential. The political conflicts that end up being resolved, find a way out sooner or later over a negotiating table where all sides freely bring up their stances. Ours, the one that represents a large consensus in the country, is the end of repression, and self-determination."
For him, "it is now the time for political audacity, democratic courage and social reconciliation."
The Spanish government welcomed the politician's implicit support for the pardons, saying it is evidence he approves of Madrid's approach to seek "harmony."
In his op-ed, Junqueras also said that a referendum, accepted by Spain, is the best way out, because it has "more guarantees and immediate international recognition," and suggested that a non-permitted vote like the one held in 2017 is not "viable or desirable." Indeed, he admitted that the 2017 referendum was not seen as "totally legitimate" by a significant number of Catalans.
Yet, Esquerra's junior partner in government, Junts per Catalunya, criticized those words saying that the independence camp "is obliged" not to rule out any scenario, including taking unilateral steps.
The Spanish government has been considering pardoning the nine leaders for weeks, and the Spanish president Pedro Sánchez's recent messages seem to confirm that it will happen.
The Spanish regional policy minister, Miquel Iceta, said on Monday that he believes that the pardons will come before summer.
This would coincide with the beginning of a new era of talks between Sánchez and Aragonès, who talked over the phone on Friday, briefly met during a business event on Monday, and have agreed to hold an in-person meeting in Madrid in June.