Eyeing Catalan leaders, Spain open to discuss Penal Code reform

If a reform is finally approved, sentences against former Catalan leaders jailed for the organisation, in 2017, of a banned "Independence Referendum" of Catalonia, a prosperous region in the northeast of Spain, would be substantially reduced. [EPA/PATRICK SEEGER]

In a move to favour Catalan independence leaders, the Spanish government said it was open to discussing the reform of its Penal Code, with the primary objective being to revise criminal penalties in cases of sedition and rebellion.

Political analysts reported on Wednesday the move is intended to benefit, among other, jailed Catalan pro-independence leader Oriol Junqueras, of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC, Republican Left of Catalonia), as Spain’s leftist coalition executive forged by the Socialist Party (PSOE) and leftist Unidas-Podemos (United We Can) relies on their support for the stability of the country.

If a reform is finally approved, sentences against former Catalan leaders jailed for the organisation, in 2017, of a banned “Independence Referendum” of Catalonia would be substantially reduced and, according to predictions by some analysts, they could be released from jail in less than two years. 

Spain’s vice-president, Carmen Calvo, explained the need to update the Penal Code on Wednesday (22 January).

On 2 January, a Belgian court halted the extradition to Spain of former Catalan pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont, who is still in Brussels.

Several weeks earlier, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on 19 December that Junqueras, who has been in jail for more than two years, had the right to immunity the moment he was elected as a member of the European Parliament.

“We have seen a situation in Europe that has sent us a message. And the October 14 ruling of the Supreme Court also sends us a message that something must be done. Update. And we assume it,” Calvo said in an interview with private radio station Cadena SER.

In October 2019, nine Catalan politicians and activists were sentenced to up to 13 years in prison by Spain’s Supreme Court for their involvement in the 2017 referendum.

Junqueras, the former deputy leader of the regional Catalan government, was found guilty of sedition and misuse of public funds and sentenced to 13 years in jail. He was also banned from holding public office for another 13 years. 

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