Wednesday, July 6

The Government pardons the independence leaders 1,328 days after their entry into prison

Pedro Sánchez takes this Tuesday one of the most important decisions of his mandate: the granting of pardons to the nine independence leaders who have been in prison for 1,328 convicted by the unilateral declaration of independence of 2017. Almost four years after entering prison – On November 2 of that year, provisionally during the investigation of the case and later with the firm conviction of the Supreme Court in October 2019 – the Government awaits the immediate departure of Lledoners of former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras; the ex-councilors Raül Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull and Dolors Bassa; of the ex-president of the Parliament Carme Forcadell; and the leaders of ANC and Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, respectively.

Sánchez confirms that he will grant pardons this Tuesday: “For harmony, with the heart”

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A good part of their sentence remains for all of them for sedition and, in some cases, for embezzlement. “Getting these nine people out of jail, who represent thousands of Catalans, is a resounding message of the will for harmony and coexistence,” said the president on Monday at a conference held in Barcelona. The panorama is, in the eyes of the Government, radically different from that of four years ago, when the PSOE had to support the Executive of Mariano Rajoy in the intervention of the autonomy of Catalonia through 155 for the first time. Also left behind are the protests that led to televised riots in prime time after the sentence of you process. And it is time, according to Sánchez, to heal those wounds.

“We must not wait for a more propitious moment. If there is a moment to unite, it is precisely this. This is the moment. We are where we are, and it is from here that we have to start the path to regain coexistence and normality. Time , we know it very well, it does not heal wounds by itself, it takes courage and hands always ready to take care of our pain, “he said in his conference convinced that the path that he is now beginning opens an opportunity for the recomposition of relationships between Catalonia and the State and also for the reconciliation of Catalan citizens with each other and with the rest of Spaniards.

The decision to pardon the pro-independence leaders no longer takes anyone by surprise. The Government has been paving the way for months and, especially, Sánchez himself in recent weeks, before the report of the Supreme Court, which like the Prosecutor’s Office, opposed the granting of the government pardon. Faced with this setback, the president rolled up his sleeves to try to do a pedagogical work on the measure of grace that he himself denied in the middle of the electoral campaign, aware that a large part of the electorate does not see it with good eyes. “I understand that there may be compatriots who feel qualms about the possibility of giving pardons to Catalan prisoners, but I ask them to have confidence, because we have to make a commitment to coexistence, we have to make a commitment to repair those errors that they were committed in 2017, “he said a couple of weeks ago.

But the work has not only been done from the outside, but the ground has also been prepared with ERC. The pardons are the prelude to the reactivation of the dialogue table that socialists and republicans agreed for the inauguration of Sánchez and that until now has only met once due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and, subsequently, due to the blockade imposed by Quim Torra and the subsequent electoral call in Catalonia. The PSC was rewarded at the polls and in Moncloa they also breathed when ERC beat Junts and, with that result, the most feasible option in the search for a solution to the political conflict. Since then, Moncloa and ERC have been taking steps practically hand in hand and largely agreed. If Sánchez assumes wear and tear, so do the Catalan republicans, who have renounced the unilateral path and have had gestures such as the participation of the Government in an act attended by the king, in an important turn regarding the attitude of the Generalitat presided over by Torra.

The letter in which Junqueras acknowledged errors in the you process and denied the unilateralism in the independence objective was a first oxygen balloon for Sánchez, who will use it as an argument in the pardons as well as the public utility that its concession implies. “The fundamental reason for the pardons that we are preparing to approve is their usefulness for coexistence,” said the president this Monday. It is the message that Sánchez has been repeating for weeks and with which he intends to open a new stage in which the most difficult thing now will be to find meeting points with the Generalitat at the dialogue table that will foreseeably be convened after the summer break. The first step will, however, be a meeting in Moncloa between Sánchez and the president, Pere Aragonès, in the next few days.

In Moncloa they are optimistic with how the strategy is working so far and more after the second oxygen balloon, which arrived last week from the unions, employers and even the Catalan bishops with their support for the grace measure. In the Executive they believe that the messages of “magnanimity”, “concord”, “dialogue” or “coexistence” have imposed themselves on the tension that the right is generating with this decision and they believe that it will remain isolated after the failure of the demonstration in the Plaza de Colón and the prick of the PP in the collection of signatures with the added slip of pointing out Felipe VI when Isabel Díaz Ayuso said that he would be an “accomplice” of the pardons for signing them, as is his constitutional duty.

Faced with the even enthusiastic vision that Moncloa emits, the trance in the independence movement is different to a large extent because of the gap between ERC and Junts. The resignation to the unilateral route was not well received by the partners of the Government. The Republicans are also trying to lower the fierceness of Madrid. “The pardon is a triumph that shows some of the weaknesses of the State apparatuses,” Junqueras himself said in an interview on Catalunya Ràdio this Sunday. Again Junts ugly his words by ensuring that he cannot speak of “triumph”. “It is a partial and incomplete solution,” Aragonès was quick to say when Sánchez confirmed that the Council of Ministers would approve the pardon files on Tuesday.

While Sánchez presented to Catalan civil society in Barcelona his plan for the “reunion” –in which he was interrupted by an assistant who shouted that independence was the only solution– ERC, Junts and the CUP attended the Òmnium act in Congress Cultural y Amnesty i Llibertat to register the signatures for an amnesty law to which the PSOE is frontally opposed –as well as the referendum for independence, which is the other proposal defended by its interlocutors–. “We do not think that those who aspire to independence will change their ideals. We do not expect such a thing,” Sánchez admitted in parallel during his speech.

And the position that the independentistas maintain from now on is the main concern in the ranks of the PSOE, where the waters have calmed in recent weeks, especially with the Junqueras letter, which was a relief for leaders and socialist cadres who had doubts about the fit that pardons would have on his electorate. But in the PSOE they know that Sánchez’s move is risky and that a departure from the independence movement can mean a brutal attrition for the socialists. In the Government they conspire and repeat ad nauseam that since the arrival of the left in Moncloa there has been no illegality in Catalonia, it has returned to the path of dialogue and that it was with a PP government that the unity of Spain. An action by which the pardoned, in the opinion of Sánchez, “assumed responsibility for their actions” against those who put land in between to avoid prosecution. They, the nine convicted of sedition, will be released from jail with the government’s pardon for their prison sentences, although they will remain ineligible for public office in the coming years and the condition not to commit a serious crime again so that the pardon will be keep up.

After the Council of Ministers, the pardons will be published, with the signature of Felipe VI, in the Official State Gazette and, afterwards, the release of the independence leaders from prison will be effective. From there, Spain will begin a new stage, or at least that is what Sánchez hopes, who has already accumulated several new chapters for his Resistance Manual since he came to power.