Spain: Amnesty for Catalan separatists comes into force

Spain
Amnesty for Catalan separatists comes into force

The liberal Junts of separatist leader Carles Puigdemont and the left-wing ERC both continue to strive for Catalonia’s secession from Spain. Photo

© Gloria Sánchez/EUROPA PRESS/dpa

The Catalonia conflict has been simmering for a long time. Now the amnesty for separatists is in force, with which the government in Madrid wants to pacify the region. Some may now be thinking about packing their bags.

The controversial Amnesty for Catalan separatists has come into force. The “Law for the Institutional, Political and Social Normalization in Catalonia” was published in the Spanish Official Gazette.

This means that separatists who fled abroad to escape the Spanish justice system, especially the former regional government leader Carles Puigdemont, can hope to return home without having to fear arrest. However, the judiciary would first have to lift arrest warrants, which could take some time.

The adoption of the amnesty law in parliament at the end of May was preceded by heated debates and several votes in both houses of parliament.

Arrest warrants will be maintained for the time being

The judge in charge at the Supreme Court in Madrid, Pablo Llarena, said in an initial reaction that the arrest warrants he issued against Puigdemont and three other separatist politicians in early 2023 would be upheld for the time being.

The Supreme Court said Llarena had given the public prosecutor and the lawyers of those affected five days to submit a statement on the “applicability” of the new amnesty law before deciding whether to lift the arrest warrants. The spokeswoman for the left-wing government, Pilar Alegría, told journalists: “Parliament has done its job, the government has done its job, the law has been passed and is now in force, so it is up to the judges to implement it.”

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had promised the “Catalanistas” the amnesty and other concessions in order to secure the votes of two separatist parties for his re-election in November. The liberal Junts of separatist leader Puigdemont and the left-wing ERC both continue to strive for Catalonia to secede from Spain. Sánchez, however, wants to prevent this and defuse the conflict through dialogue.

Discontent and protests

The amnesty plans have sparked a lot of resentment in the EU’s fourth-largest economy in recent months. There were protests with thousands of participants. Opposition leader Alberto Núñez Feijoó of the conservative People’s Party PP described the measure as a “national disgrace” and an “international embarrassment”. He accused Sánchez of political “corruption” because he had “bought” his re-election with the amnesty.

The amnesty applies to everyone who has come into conflict with the law in connection with the independence movement since 2012. Only a few crimes, such as terrorism, are excluded. Among the 400 or so beneficiaries is Puigdemont, under whose aegis Catalonia was plunged into chaos after an illegal independence referendum and a decision to secede from Spain in autumn 2017. The then conservative central government placed the region under compulsory administration. Puigdemont was able to flee with some of his comrades and has lived in exile in Belgium ever since.

dpa

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