Spanish lawmakers to vote on Catalan amnesty law today

Lawmakers will hold a meeting at 3:00 pm (14:00GMT) today to vote on the amnesty law suggested by Catalan parties.

  • Supporters of the JxCat party celebrate the results of the elections at their headquarters in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, Sunday, May 26, 2019 (AP)

Spanish lawmakers are set today to vote on a law that would give amnesty to Catalan independence seekers, which was opposed by the right.

JxCat party, a Catalan party, asked for the law as a condition for providing their parliamentary support to Pedro Sanchez so he would be able to secure a new term as prime minister. 

The amnesty law will apply to parties that took part in the 2017 Catalan independence movement and were deemed wanted by the justice system, first and foremost JxCat’s exiled leader, Carles Puigdemon, who fled to Belgium to avoid prosecution at the time.

Lawmakers will gather from 3:00 pm (14:00 GMT) to vote on the law, which is expected to pass through a majority of 178 out of 350-seat chambers, as the Socialists, their radical left-wing coalition partner Sumar, and the Catalan and Basque regional parties are expected to vote in favor.

However, even if the law is approved, the bill would still face a series of legal issues before becoming law as the right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP) has started doing everything within its capacity to hinder its passage through the Senate’s upper house, where it holds an absolute majority. One of the cards it played was modifying the procedural rules in the upper chamber.

The right-wing party is also planning on requesting legal opinions and reports on the bill before its amendment. Hence, it will take longer for the bill to be sent to the lawmakers for a final vote.

During the weekend, right-wing parties held a protest in central Madrid in opposition to the amnesty law. Alberto Nunez Feijoo, a right-wing leader, attempted to fuel the 45,000 protesters by stating that the government has “swapped immunity for power” in the “worst version of power.”

A Barcelona magistrate who disapproves of the bill stated he was “extending his probe” into alleged ties “between Puigdemont and the Kremlin,” claiming he had sought Russian support for a Catalan state. He further claimed he has evidence of “close personal relationships” between Puigdemont’s inner circle and Russians “close to the Russian secret service.”

According to El Pais Daily, this obstacle could lead to “treason charges” against Puigdemont not falling under the amnesty law.

Another hurdle is that Spain’s Supreme Court has jailed nine Catalan separatist leaders from the Democratic Tsunami after initiating a blockade of the Barcelona airport in 2019 during their fight for independence. This was also used in November by the magistrate alleging that Puigdemont had a “leadership” role with the Democratic Tsunami trying to label him as a “terrorist”.

This prompted the Socialists to amend the amnesty law under study to apply to those accused of “terrorism” as long as it did not involve a serious violation of human rights.

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