Spain Parliament approves bill granting amnesty to Catalan separatists News
Ank Kumar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Spain Parliament approves bill granting amnesty to Catalan separatists

The lower house of the Spanish Parliament approved on Thursday a controversial legislative proposal granting amnesty for Catalan separatists involved in the 2017 independence bid.

The proposed law seeks to “put an end to judicial processes and sentences” against anyone who took part in the Catalan independence campaign that took place between November 1, 2011 and November 13, 2023. The government estimated that more than 400 people will be affected. On January 10 and 30, the Parliament rejected the earlier drafts of the proposal, which was then sent back to the Justice Commission for re-examination.

On Thursday, the Justice Commission published a new opinion on the proposal. Lawmakers debated and eventually passed the commission’s opinion in the Thursday plenary session with a majority of 178 votes in favor and 172 against.

The bill was initiated in December 2023 by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), to which Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez belongs. It originally started as a deal between the PSOE and the pro-independence Together for Catalonia party (Junts), where Sánchez agreed to drop all charges against the Catalan separatists convicted in relation to the 2017 independence referendum, in exchange for the Junts’ votes for Sánchez in the 2023 elections. The bill has been controversial since the day it came out and sparked weeks-long, large-scale protests across various cities in Spain, where thousands of people took to the streets. During the Thursday parliamentary debate, the bill was strongly opposed by the right-wing Spanish People’s Party (PP). The PP stated that it was “the only way for Pedro Sánchez to be President of the Government.”

Sánchez himself did not show up at the Thursday plenary session. However, he wrote on X that the approval of the bill was “a brave and necessary step towards reunion” and will “open a new time of coexistence and prosperity in Catalonia.”

Carles Puigdemont, who declared Catalonia’s independence in 2017 as the regional president and now lives in Belgium, said that the goal of the amnesty law was to “overcome an erroneous stage of judicial and police repression of a political movement.” He will be able to return to Spain without facing charges if amnesty is granted under the proposed law.

The bill will soon be sent to the Senate, which has a conservative majority. If rejected by the Senate, the Parliament’s lower house will have to conduct a second vote for it.