1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Spanish lawmakers pass amnesty bill for Catalan separatists

March 14, 2024

Spain's lower house of parliament has passed a bill that would grant amnesty to people involved in Catalonia's 2017 independence bid. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez relied on Catalan parties to form a government.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Budget Minister Maria Jesus Montero clapping in the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, Spain
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez promised amnesty as part of a deal reached with the Catalan separatist party JuntsImage: Pierre-Philippe MARCOU/AFP

Spain's lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, approved on Thursday a bill granting amnesty to Catalans involved in a 2017 independence referendum.

The bill passed with 178 votes in favor and 172 against.

Justice Minister Felix Bolanos says the amnesty law would affect "around 400 people."

The plans to provide amnesty to Catalan separatists has been controversial, sparking far-right demonstrations late last year.

What else do we know about the bill?

While Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialists initially expressed unwillingness to provide amnesty, elections in July resulted in a hung parliament and Sanchez required the support of Catalan separatist party Junts to form a government.

Violent protests in Spain over deal with Catalan separatists

The amnesty bill must still clear the Senate, in which the conservative People's Party (PP) holds a majority of seats.

The PP has vowed to delay the passage of the measure, accusing the government of "buying" votes from separatist lawmakers to stay in power. However, the Congress can override a Senate veto with an absolute majority vote.

Six weeks ago, an earlier version of the bill was voted down by the lower house, with Junts' seven lawmakers voting against it, arguing that it did not offer sufficient protection against charges of terrorism or treason.

The amended version of the bill defines terrorism by a 2017 EU directive, according to which it would have to have caused serious human rights violations.

Catalan leader mulls return from exile

Former leader of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Brussels after the independence vote and now heads Junts, said he hoped to return to Spain after the law comes into effect. 

"The amnesty responds to a goal... to overcome an erroneous period of judicial and police repression of a political movement," Puigdemont said in a post on the platform X, formerly Twitter.

Puigdemont said that amnesty was a "prior condition" for further negotiation with the central government.

He stressed that the bill was "not an end point" for Catalonia's independence ambitions.

sdi/wmr (AFP, Reuters)