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Spain's parliament gives final approval to amnesty law for Catalonia's separatists

Supporters of exiled Catalonian former regional president Carles Puigdemont at a campaign rally in Argelers, France.
Supporters of exiled Catalonian former regional president Carles Puigdemont at a campaign rally in Argelers, France. Copyright AP Photo/Joan Mateu
Copyright AP Photo/Joan Mateu
By Euronews with AP
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The measure is supposed to help keep the country's government together, but has infuriated many Spaniards who consider it a blow against the rule of law.

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Spain’s Parliament has voted to give final approval to a controversial amnesty law for hundreds of Catalan separatists involved in the illegal and unsuccessful 2017 secession bid.

The legislation was backed by Spain’s left-wing coalition government, two Catalan separatist parties, and other smaller parties. It passed by a vote of 177-172 in the lower house with the conservative Popular Party and far-right Vox opposing it.

The amnesty could benefit former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, a fugitive from Spanish law in Belgium after fleeing his country following the failed breakaway bid that he led.

It should also help hundreds more people, including former government officials in Barcelona, average citizens who participated in the secession attempt or protests, and some police officers involved in the crackdown on an illegal independence referendum held by Puigdemont's government.

However, the law does not immediately clear up the legal mess in which the separatists are embroiled.

It will likely face legal challenges and will be reviewed by higher courts. It also must be applied by courts on a case-by-case basis.

Some experts question its constitutionality since they say it would create inequality between Spanish citizens by favouring some over others.

Hold together

Since taking power in 2018, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has focused on reducing tensions in northeast Catalonia. He argues that the amnesty is key to culminating that process.

But the amnesty was also a political necessity for Sánchez, who agreed to the act of pardon when he needed the support of the separatist lawmakers in Madrid to form a new national government in November.

The parliament's lower house initially approved it in March. The Senate, where right-wing parties hold a majority, rejected it earlier this month, but the lower house can push it through regardless.

While the amnesty is popular in Catalonia, even among many unionists, the Popular Party and Vox have led protests against it in Madrid and other cities nationwide. The law also has its critics within Sánchez's own Socialist party.

It comes during the run-up to European Parliament elections on June 6-9, and just as Sánchez's Socialists are trying to form a government in Catalonia after beating the separatists in regional elections earlier this month.

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