Catalonia's High Court grants amnesty to former interior minister for role in independence referendum

Judges consider amnesty law applies to crimes of misuse of public funds without own enrichment

Former Catalan interior minister during 2017 Miquel Buch was granted an amnesty by the Catalan High Court
Former Catalan interior minister during 2017 Miquel Buch was granted an amnesty by the Catalan High Court / Gerard Vilà / Ariadna Reche
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

June 25, 2024 04:23 PM

June 25, 2024 05:58 PM

Catalonia's High Court has granted an amnesty to the former Catalan interior minister, Miquel Buch, for his involvement in the 2017 independence referendum. 

Buch was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison and 20 years barred from holding public office on the charges of misuse of public funds and prevarication (which in Spanish law refers to public officials who knowingly issue an unfair or unjust decision).

Buch was charged for naming, as a consultant, a Mossos d'Esquadra police officer to be former president Carles Puigdemont's security escort when he left Spain after the 2017 referendum, which was deemed illegal by Spain.

The High Court has also granted an amnesty to Lluís Escolà, the law enforcement agent, sentenced to four years in prison and 19 years of holding public office for the same crimes.

The ruling from Barcelona's Court in September also forced the two wrongdoers to pay €52,712 in fines, which have also been pardoned.

Judges consider that the amnesty law, which came into force on June 11 after it was published in Spain's Official Gazette, also exonerates those crimes of misuse of public funds when the goal of that money was to promote Catalonia's independence, one of the pardonable reasons.

However, those who increased their net worth with the misuse of public funds, even if it was to promote independence, cannot be granted an amnesty.

More than 15 demonstrators granted amnesty

Catalonia's High Court has also granted an amnesty to more than 15 pro-independence demonstrators charged with assault on law enforcement agents during protests after the October 2017 independence referendum.

These pro-independence members are part of a group named: 'Tres de Granollers' (three people from Granollers city), which were detained in October 2020 for the riots at Plaça Universitat square in Barcelona. They were all charged to three months in prison.

Among the others granted an amnesty, there are Víctor Verdejo, who was sentenced to three months in prison for the Camp Nou stadium protest organized by the Tsunami Democràtic protest group in December 2019, and six more demonstrators for participating in the protests in Parc de la Ciutadella park on January 30, 2018, coinciding with the failed attempt of former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to be named president again. 

Five of them were trialed and sentenced to spend between five and 12 months in prison. One of them was still pending trial.

Amnesty law

The amnesty law is part of a deal between the pro-independence Junts party and the Socialist party to see Pedro Sánchez reelected as prime minister back in November 2023.

It will benefit all those involved in the independence movement, like individuals who have been investigated, accused, or charged with a wide range of crimes, including embezzlement and disobedience.

It will also cover those sentenced in 2019 for their roles in organizing the referendum, such as former vice president Oriol Junqueras and former cabinet members. Former president Carles Puigdemont has not yet been trialed, but he could also benefit from the amnesty law.