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Spanish congress rejects Catalan separatist amnesty measure

  • Spanish Congress blocks amnesty bill
  • JxCat opposes, cites judicial intervention
  • Bill revision, Senate approval pending

In a surprising development, the Spanish Congress has obstructed a highly contested amnesty bill that was intended to assist Catalan nationalists engaged in separatist endeavours.

The opposition vote was cast by the Together for Catalonia (JxCat) party because it allegedly fails to provide sufficient safeguards for politicians under investigation for offences related to terrorism.

One of them was the former president of the Catalonia region, who in 2017 was implicated in an unsuccessful endeavour to achieve independence.

As a result of the legislation, Spain is divided.

On Tuesday, the measure, introduced by the government of Socialist Pedro Sánchez, encountered its initial significant parliamentary examination.

With numerous nationalist parties supporting amnesty, including JxCat, it appeared that Congress would approve the legislation. JxCat is led by former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

However, JxCat voted against it, seeing it as judicial action to undermine the law.

JxCat spokeswoman Miriam Nogueras stated, “We cannot allow the Catalan independence movement to be subject to the caprices of the politicised Spanish judiciary.”

Amnesty Bill Faces Complex Hurdles

Voting against the amnesty were the far-right Vox and the conservative People’s Party (PP), both ardent opponents. As a result, the measure received 171 votes, five short of the required majority.

Following revision, the measure will be returned to a parliamentary commission, which must be resubmitted within a month. Before its implementation, the legislation would additionally require Senate approval.

A national court judge, Manuel García-Castellón, recommended in a report published last week that Mr Puigdemont and several others might face charges of terrorism due to their alleged association with Democratic Tsunami. This independence-oriented activist organisation organised large-scale demonstrations in 2019, one of which halted operations at Barcelona’s El Prat airport.

Due to the terrorism allegation, the former president of Catalonia was at risk of being denied amnesty.

Right away, Mr. Sánchez’s Socialists discussed changes with JxCat and Catalan Republican Left nationalists. The purpose of these amendments was to ensure that Mr. Puigdemont remained within the scope of the amnesty.

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Terrorists without human rights breaches were still eligible for amnesty under the amendment.

However, it was revealed in a subsequent report authored by Mr García-Castellón that the Democratic Tsunami might have violated human rights.

Separately, another judge, Joaquín Aguirre, suggested that Mr. Puigdemont might be subject to an investigation for high treason because of purported interactions with Russian officials preceding the 2017 secession attempt. This offence would also disqualify him from receiving amnesty.

JxCat advocated for additional legislation amendments to accommodate these developments. However, the Socialists maintained their stance and refused to make any changes.

JxCat was criticised by ERC for voting in violation of the law.

“This legislation possesses sufficient robustness to withstand modifications from circumspect judges who seek to undermine it,” stated Pilar Vallugera of ERC.

According to the right-wing opposition, the amnesty is unconstitutional, and Mr Sánchez is attempting to pass it because he needs the support of ERC and JxCat in parliament.

PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo stated, “Sánchez has chosen to be a hostage [to Catalan nationalism]. But we Spaniards will not pay the ransom.”

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