Nine Catalan separatists have been released from prison after their sentences for their role in a banned independence referendum in 2017 were commuted by the Spanish government. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.
The politicians and activists were released on Wednesday (23 June), the day after being officially pardoned by Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government. They were more than three years into sentences of between nine and 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds, including pretrial detention.
Former vice-president of Catalonia Oriol Junqueras and six other separatists left prison together and posed for the media with pro-independence Catalan flags and a placard that read: “Freedom for Catalonia.”
“Until the day of victory, we will continue to work with everyone, without excluding anyone, to make the dream of a Catalan republic a reality,” Junqueras, who is leader of the left-wing ERC party, said after leaving prison.
The pardons issued by the Sanchez government are partial and conditional and although the prison sentences have been commuted, the nine activists and politicians remain banned from public office.
Opponents of Sanchez have accused him of capitulating to parties who want to break Catalonia away from Spain. Sanchez said the pardons were in the interest of “coexistence and concord.”
“We will face challenges on the way, but it is worth trying,” he added Tuesday.
The conservative Popular Party called on the Socialist Party leader to resign over the matter. The nine Catalan separatists were jailed for their involvement in the banned 2017 independence referendum and subsequent declaration of independence.
In response, the then PP-led government triggered a hitherto dormant constitutional mechanism to dissolve the regional government and bring it under Madrid’s direct control until new elections were held.
The fallout of the Catalan vote was profound, triggering violent protests in Barcelona and fueling the rise of the far-right Vox party in Spain. Junqueras’ former boss, ex-regional president Carles Puigdemont, and several regional ministers, fled Spain to avoid the charges.
[Edited by Paula Kenny and Josie Le Blond]