Spanish leader says 9 imprisoned Catalan separatists to be pardoned

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stands at a lectern near three flags
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez delivers a speech at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday.
(Emilio Morenatti / Associated Press)

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Monday that the Spanish Cabinet will approve pardons for nine separatist Catalan politicians and activists imprisoned for their roles in a 2017 push to break away from Spain.

Sánchez made the announcement in Barcelona during a speech set to lay the roadmap for the future of Catalonia, a culturally distinct region in Spain’s northeast. He said the Cabinet would approve the controversial pardons Tuesday.

Twelve separatist leaders were convicted of sedition and other crimes and nine were handed lengthy prison terms after they pushed ahead with a banned secession referendum and declared independence for Catalonia a few days later based on its results. Most unionists boycotted the vote, which took place amid a harsh police crackdown.


No prominent pro-independence supporters attended Sánchez’s speech Monday before a few hundred civil society representatives at the opera house in Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital. Outside the venue, an anti-establishment party and the main pro-independence civil society group held a protest.

“With this action, we materially get nine people out of prison, but we symbolically add millions and millions of people to coexistence,” Sánchez said in his speech, which was titled “Reunion: a project for the future of all Spain.”

“We are going to do it for the sake of agreement. We are going to do it wholeheartedly,” he added.

The separatist movement in Spain’s northeast Catalonia has increased its power in a regional election despite years of frustrated ambitions to create a new Mediterranean nation.

Feb. 15, 2021

The prime minister was interrupted by an activist who carried the unofficial pro-independence Catalan flag and shouted in favor of granting full amnesty to the separatists. While pardons are granted by the government as a way to spare punishment to those convicted, amnesty is seen as a recognition of no fault in the first place.

The pardons have become a divisive political issue.

Thousands opposed to the move called for Sánchez’s resignation earlier this month during a protest in Madrid, supported by the three Spanish opposition parties, from the political center to the far right.