Spain’s parliament passes amnesty for Catalan separatists after region’s leader calls snap election

Spain’s Parliament on Thursday has approved a controversial amnesty bill aimed at forgiving crimes committed by Catalan separatists in 2017.
Spain’s Parliament on Thursday has approved a controversial amnesty bill aimed at forgiving crimes committed by Catalan separatists in 2017. Copyright AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
By Euronews with AP
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The approval of the contentious amnesty law comes a day after Catalonia's president Pere Aragones called for a snap election in May.

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Spain's national parliament approved a controversial amnesty law on Thursday pardoning hundreds of leaders and supporters of the Catalan separatist movement – including those involved in the region’s unsuccessful attempt to declare independence from Spain in 2017.

The bill was proposed by socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez as a way to move past the secession attempt by the then-leaders of Catalonia – a suggestion that angered many Spaniards.

The amnesty bill was approved with a close 178-172 vote in the 350-seat lower house of Parliament in Madrid. The application of the law will be decided by the courts on a case-by-case basis.

The bill's opponents see it as outrageously lenient toward those who provoked one of the country’s biggest crises since the death of General Francisco Franco in 1975.

The Catalan Parliament declared independence on October 27,  2017, after calling for a secession referendum backing the move, but it failed to gather international support. Carles Puigdemont, the architect of the illegal referendum, later fled Spain, as did several other senior Catalan officials.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Catalonia face the threat of prosecutions related to the referendum or protests, and Puigdemont and other leaders remain abroad.

The vote came a day after Catalan President Pere Aragones called a snap election on May 12 following his minority government's failure to pass a budget for the wealthy region in northeast Spain.

Catalan President Pere Aragones addresses the media in front of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, April 21, 2022.
Catalan President Pere Aragones addresses the media in front of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid, Spain, Thursday, April 21, 2022.AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File

“On May 12, Catalan citizens will choose between responsibility or irresponsibility,” Aragones said in a televised address on Wednesday, accusing the parties that opposed his budget proposal as “irresponsible”.

Voters will go called to the polls to elect the autonomous region’s new parliament, with all its 135 seats up for election.

Their decision could have significant consequences for Spain’s national politics, with Sanchez currently relying on Catalan separatist parties to approve laws in the national parliament.

The regional election had to be held before the end of the current legislative year and  was initially scheduled for February 2025. The 2017 Catalan regional elections were held in December, while the 2021 ones were held in February.

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