Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his government on Tuesday would pardon nine jailed leaders of the Catalonia region’s 2017 move for independence.
Sanchez told a group of civil society leaders in Barcelona that his Cabinet would approve the pardons.
Opposition parties have said they would challenge the pardons in court. Opinion polls showed a slim majority of the public opposed the pardons.
Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders to jail in 2019 for sedition and other offenses, with the sentences ranging from nine to 13 years.
The government in Madrid had banned Catalonia from holding its independence referendum, but the leaders went ahead with the vote anyway. The pro-independence side scored an overwhelming victory. The poll was boycotted by most unionists.
Sanchez said in his address Monday that for the two sides to move forward, “someone must make the first step.”
The current regional leader in Catalonia, Pere Aragones, welcomed the pardons as an initial move, but said he would push for amnesty and a new, authorized independence referendum.
The pardons do not affect the status of former regional leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium shortly after the 2017 referendum and was not among those convicted.