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Thousands Rally in Spain Against Amnesty for Separatists

The divisive amnesty question follows an inconclusive July general election which left acting Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez needing the support in parliament of Catalan separatist parties ERC and JxCat to be sworn in for another term.

In exchange, the two parties demand an amnesty for hundreds of people who faced legal action over their often minor roles in Catalonia’s failed push for independence in 2017 which sparked Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.

“Spain is not for sale” and “No amnesty” were among the slogans on display at the rally in the central Plaza de Colon.

Marcos Carbonell, a 37-year-old engineer, said he was upset that Sanchez was willing to make a pact with those who want to “break up Spain”.

“It’s shameful. Not everything goes to stay in power,” he told AFP.

Many in the crowd were angry that an amnesty could benefit JxCat leader Carles Puigdemont, who headed the northeast region’s government in 2017 when it made a short-lived declaration of Catalan independence after a violence-marred referendum banned by Madrid.

Many Spaniards consider Puigdemont, who fled shortly after to avoid prosecution and now lives in Belgium, an enemy of the state.

“Send Puigdemont to prison!” demonstrators shouted.

Sanchez, who has sought to calm separatist tensions since coming to office five years ago, in 2021 pardoned top Catalan separatist leaders who were serving long prison terms over the secession bid.

He defended the need for an amnesty during a speech to top Socialist party members on Saturday, saying the 2021 pardons had “undeniably” defused the conflict over Catalan separatism even though they were met with “extreme aggressiveness by the right”.

“Overcoming definitively the conflict would require other measures in the future because we can’t leave this wound open indefinitely,” he added.

Sanchez needs to secure support from at least 176 lawmakers within the 350-seat parliament to win a key vote that must take place before November 27.

If he fails, Spain will automatically be forced to hold new elections, most likely in mid-January.

Source: France24