The path of pardons

The Spanish government's "political reasons" for the pardons

The central executive considers jailed leaders are "key to restoring coexistence"

3 min
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez presiding over the council of ministers approving pardons for political prisoners

MadridThis Tuesday, when the Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez, defended that the pardons are "the best decision for Catalonia and Spain" he was summarising the key of the argument by which his executive grants the pardons: the public utility of a decision that, he states, is taken thinking about the general interest. As stated in the files on Jordi Cuixart and Raül Romeva to which ARA has had access, the commitment to coexistence is the main theme of the Spanish government's motivation, even above the particular interests of those involved. In markedly political pardons, Sánchez's executive places the pardons as a first step to try to solve the Catalan conflict politically.

The defence of the general interest as the main goal to be preserved is especially visible in the pardon for the President of Òmnium, with whom the Supreme Court used one of the main arguments against the pardon due to his final intervention in the trial, when he uttered his famous "We will do it again". "This proposal for pardon understands that the political and media use by some of those convicted in the Catalan independence bid case to hinder attempts at dialogue reinforce the decision proposed here. The general interest of the country justifies, in the case of Jordi Cuixart, a pardon against the interest of its beneficiary", the report on Cuixart says. "This obstinate attitude shown by Cuixart could mean that he does not deserve a pardon for reasons of justice or equity, but they cannot be placed before the higher public interest that inspires the granting of his pardon", it adds.

In this sense, repentance does not act as a requirement, but as a "value" that may have had an impact when calculating the conditionality of the pardon. That is, the time during which they cannot commit a serious crime if they do not want the pardon to lapse. However, the executive is clear that there is a change of attitude towards the convicted: "None of the social referents of the independence movement nor of the regional political leaders who, subsequently, have effectively occupied institutional positions in Catalonia have incurred in behaviours similar to those that gave rise to that conviction. Since October 2017, the institutions have complied with the law".

The great controversy of the pardon to political prisoners is its essentially political nature, causing the right to attack Sánchez. PP, Vox and Cs consider that pardons are asking the convicted to do it again, while the executive thinks the opposite. In line with unilateralism, which the executive emphasises in its documents, the bar from holding public office remains. For example, Romeva will not be able to hold public office until July 9, 2030.

"Key to the restoration of coexistence"

As Sánchez has been explaining in recent days, the Spanish government's priority is to restore normal institutional relations between Catalonia and Spain, as well as coexistence, both in Catalonia and with the State. "There is a toxic spiral", say sources within the Spanish government. And to achieve this goal, he considers that the release of prisoners is necessary. "He is a key person for the restoration of coexistence [...]. His weight in the future of the relations between Catalonia and the State is indisputable", Romeva's dossier reads.

The aspiration to "reunion" to which Sánchez has appealed, the Spanish government gives the 2006 vote on the Statute of Autonomy as context. It stresses that it obtained 74% of support - and silences that it had a 48% turnout - and notes that over the years support for independence has grown to 44.9%, according to the latest barometer of the Centre for Opinion Studies. "Likewise, political parties with which the convicted have obtained broad electoral support in the last Catalan elections, held on February 14th". The executive regrets the shift towards pro-independence positions in the last decade and blames Mariano Rajoy's PP. "Throughout this process, political dialogue was progressively replaced by institutional confrontation. The Spanish government avoided any political action and left in the hands of the courts, any response to the challenges of the Catalan institutions, which were growing in intensity", the report says.

In the final part of the dossiers - which have been polished to the last day and include details such as demonstrations by the Cercle d'Economia last week - the government insists on the consensus generated by the measure, and also refers to the international view of the conflict. "The government is not alone in this decision. Far from it. It suffices to point out that we are facing a decision requested by a multitude of independent personalities, international organisations, unions and political parties of different sides. Throughout this proposal a good example of this has been given. But the most relevant thing is that the Spanish government is firmly convinced that, in the current context, the full serving of the prison sentence would aggravate the existing tension and would make it difficult to advance in the search for a solution". A full compliance of the sentence that in the election campaign for the 2019 elections Sánchez defended himself.