Thousands rally against Catalan pardons in Madrid

Thousands of right-wing protesters took to the streets of Madrid on Sunday against the Spanish government’s plans to pardon 12 Catalan politicians who were convicted over a failed independence attempt in 2017. These leaders were serving sentences of between 9 and 13 years in prison for their roles in the unauthorised independence referendum.

The Spanish nationalist Vox party, centrist Ciudadanos and conservative People’s Party were among those rallying in Colon Square. Police said 25,000 people attended the protest, which was attended by the heads of the conservative Popular Party (PP), far-right VOX party and the liberal Ciudadanos (Cs). Leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal, said: “The pardons are, first of all, a betrayal to all the Catalans who suffered the separatist coup of 2017 and who were abandoned to the mercy of separatism. It is also an act of betrayal to all the Spanish people who respect law and the constitution.” In 2019 Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatists on sedition charges for their part in organising an unauthorised referendum on independence. Three others avoided jail terms.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has not yet issued the pardons but ministers have suggested they are likely to happen. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s indications that his government would pardon the pro-independence leaders of Catalonia, has divided Spain between those who see it as a necessary step to improve relations with the region and those who consider it an undue concession to separatists who have shown no remorse and have vowed to continue fighting for independence.