'Puigdemont, to jail!': Thousands in mass event against amnesty for referendum leaders

Spain's conservatives kick off campaign against potential deal between Socialists and independence parties in Madrid

Thousands in a political event organized by the Spanish people's Party in Madrid against a potential amnesty for the 2017 referendum leaders
Thousands in a political event organized by the Spanish people's Party in Madrid against a potential amnesty for the 2017 referendum leaders / Andrea Zamorano
Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | @enGuifre | Barcelona

September 24, 2023 01:45 PM

The People's Party has held a mass event against a potential amnesty for the Catalan 2017 referendum leaders in Madrid, attended by thousands of people – according to the local police, 30,000 people joined the event, a figure that was 60,000 according to organizers.

Ahead of a most likely failed vote on the conservative leader's bid for Spanish prime minister next week in Congress, the party kicked off on Sunday a campaign against a possible deal between the Socialists and the Catalan pro-independence parties which could include filing any legal case related to the independence push in the 2010s. In exchange, Esquerra and Junts parties would grant a new term to PM Pedro Sánchez after an inconclusive election, thus avoiding a repetition.

Attendees chanted '¡Puigdemont, a prisión!, or 'Puigdemont, to jail!', in English, referring to the former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, the man who led Catalonia to an independence referendum on October 1, 2017, which was held despite Spain's opposition. The politician has been living for six years in exile, in Brussels, ever since independence was declared in late October, 2017. He has been avoiding judicial proceedings for his role in the events, therefore he could be one of the most benefited people in a possible amnesty.

PP leader: Amnesty against 'democracy of freedom and equality'

During his speech, Núñez Feijóo said that such measure is not only illegal, but it goes against the idea of Spain being a "democracy of freedom and equality."

Indeed, he said he would defend this idea "even if it comes at the expense of the prime minister's post."

"It is false that the pro-independence parties have to be key for Spain's governance, they have never had as few votes as now."

In a rare move, the conservative leader was accompanied by both of the party politicians who have reached Spain's premiership since dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975, José María Aznar and Mariano Rajoy.

Conservative former PM: 'Coupmongers will repeat what they did if allowed'

Aznar, one of the active world leaders who backed Iraq war in 2003, said that "coupmongers do not give up, and will repeat what they did if they are allowed so," using the common way of hardline unionists to refer to the independence leaders.

He also criticized Pedro Sánchez's cabinet pardoning those politicians who did go to jail for the 2017 events, and reforming the penal code to remove the crime of sedition.

The also former PM Mariano Rajoy also expressed opposition to a potential deal which would allow Puigdemont's return, and backed Núñez Feijóo's bid for prime minister next week in Congress.

Madrid region's president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, also took the floor to say that "by no means" a general pardon will be a reality.

"Allowing the amnesty is like saying that judges have breached their duties and that the coup d'etat was fair," she said,

As for the mayor of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, he said his party "will not give up."