The Spanish government today (Tuesday) approved the pardon of nine senior Catalans serving long prison sentences for their involvement in the province’s declaration of independence in 2017. However, one senior official made it clear that they are determined to continue the struggle.
All government ministers led by Pedro Sanchez voted at noon in favor of the proposal to grant the pardons. The government stressed that the pardons did not lift the ban on senior officials holding public office again and the penalties will be re-enforced if the released are involved in new crimes.
The pardons are due to take effect after the signing of King Felipe VI and the publication in state records in the coming days. However, the Conservative People’s Party, the Citizens’ Party and the far – right Vox Party have announced they will appeal to the Supreme Court which will have to decide whether the government decision will remain in force.
Nine separatist leaders were sent to prison after being convicted of incitement in October 2019, exactly two years after the referendum that led to the Catalan declaration of independence that was forcibly suppressed by the authorities in Madrid. Three other senior executives were convicted only of non-compliance and sentenced to no actual imprisonment.
Uriel Jonquares, who served as former Catalan vice-president Carles Puigdemon, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison. Dolores Bassa, who served as Labor minister in the Catalan government, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, as was Jordi Torun, a government spokesman, and Raul Rumba, who served as foreign minister.
Former Catalan parliament speaker Karma Forsdal has been sentenced to 11.5 years in prison, while former Interior Minister Joachim Poren and former Territories Minister Josef Roll have been sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison. The two senior separatist activists, Jordi Sanchez M and Jordi Koisert were sent to nine years in prison.
Sanchez defended the decision to grant pardons and explained that they were intended to lead to reconciliation with Catalonia and promote dialogue between the parties. “The whole company is entitled to a better future in Catalonia and Spain,” he said after the vote. “The government is working for understanding and never for confrontation.”
Jordi Cosart, the leader of a Catalan civil association who is among the pardon recipients, did not hide his intention to continue the separatist struggle even after the liberation. “The pardons will not resolve the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain,” he told the British Times from prison. “Granting pardons is not a huge act. I should not have been in jail for exercising my right to freedom of expression and protest. I was imprisoned because I called on people to vote.”