Spanish government open to halving sentence for crime of sedition

Change in line with European averages but does not do away with offense, Spanish daily El País reports

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez sitting in the Congress
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez sitting in the Congress / Spanish Congress
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Madrid

October 24, 2022 09:57 AM

October 24, 2022 07:11 PM

The Spanish government is open to halving sentences for the crime of sedition, according to an article published in Spanish newspaper El País on Monday. Their goal is, reportedly, to align Spanish law with European legislation.

Currently, the maximum sentence for the crime of sedition is of 15 years in Spain, while in Europe the average sentence is of six years. While the new sedition law reform will halve the number of years, it does not do away with the offense under Spanish legislation altogether.

This sedition law reform has been on the table since Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez became the head of the government in January 2020 leading a two-party coalition of the Socialists and anti-austerity Unidas Podemos.

Some of the most notorious recent sedition cases were of the nine Catalan leaders involved in the 2017 independence bid. Back in October 2019, the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced these figures to up to 13 years in prison for sedition for their involvement in the organization of the referendum.

They were pardoned by the executive after spending over three years behind bars in June 2021. 

2023 budget negotiations

The reform of the crime of sedition could be linked to the Spanish 2023 budget law

The Spanish government will propose its draft spending plan to the Spanish Congress for the first debate on Wednesday. As it currently stands, the chamber will greenlight it with the support of Catalan pro-independence and government party Esquerra Republicana (ERC) and Basque parties, but not after negotiating minor changes to the bill. 

They have announced they will not present a complete amendment motion to the 2023 budget allowing it to continue on the parliamentary procedure, before eventually being finalized and on voted by lawmakers.

As the budget, the sedition law reform would need a vast majority in congress, and while no negotiations have started, some informal talks with ERC are ongoing, El País reports.

Not related topics

The Spanish government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, rejected the idea that the new sedition law is linked to the budget negotiation between parties.

"When we talk about the budget, we talk about scholarships, investment, and even the ones in Catalonia, but not about the sedition reform, which is a different folder," Rodríguez said during an interview with Spanish TV Antena 3.

However, one thing is "certain," she said as the cabinet she represents is in favor of changing the sedition law. "If the circumstances are met and we have a majority we could go forward with this proposal, but I doubt the majority can be confirmed at this moment," she added.

Spanish minister Miquel Iceta says that "the day there is a proposal in congress that garners majority support" his government will enforce the reform of the crime of sedition / Catalan News

In the same vein, her colleague in cabinet, culture minister Miquel Iceta, said that "the day there is a proposal in congress that garners majority support" his government will enforce the reform of the crime of sedition.

ERC, one of the parties supporting the first draft of the budget law, did not link the two topics either. 

The goal of the force is that the spending plan "improves investment in social affairs," Gabriel Rufián, the party's spokesperson in congress said during an interview with Spanish public TV broadcaster RTVE.

"It is very good that we start to talk about reforming the sedition law and that is the same government and the Spanish parties such as PSOE who propose discussing it," he said before adding "that this is a very important step, much more than we imagine."

"Until recently, we were talking about jail sentences," he said and considered the proposal "a very good initiative."

Meanwhile, the pro-independence Junts party, which was the junior coalition partner until early October in the Catalan government, does not see eye to eye with the Spanish executive proposal.

The reform should "repeal" the crimes of sedition, Jordi Turull, Junts' secretary-general, said during an interview with Catalan radio Ser Catalunya, something shared by others, he claimed.

Turull was one of the imprisoned leaders and he said that the Spanish judiciary system interpreted the crimes of sedition to sentence him to prison. 

"If we want to get closer to European standards, we have to repeal the crimes of sedition," he concluded.