Pardoned ERC members vindicated one year on: "Neither in silence nor in hiding; with heads held high"

Junqueras reaffirms his commitment to the dialogue table despite the lack of progress

3 min
Image of ERC's act to vindicate the first anniversary of the pardons.

BarcelonaPardons, despite the joy they meant for prisoners and their families, were not an easy dish to digest. The measure of grace allowed them to leave prison, but it did not overrule the Supreme Court sentence, nor their ban from office, nor did it have any impact on the other cases which originated in the Independence bid. The feeling which remained in the pro-independence movement –and among those pardoned– is that the injustice persisted. A year later, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) has decided to hold an event to commemorate the release from prison of political prisoners and has done so both to vindicate the pardoned and demand amnesty and the dialogue table as ways to resolve the political conflict.

The bittersweet sensation was best summed up by former Catalan minister Dolors Bassa. She recalled the joy she felt at not having to return to prison, but also the "bitterness" of thinking that "that was not freedom". "They were giving us forced pardons, which were partial and revisable". They opened the prison door for us, but did not allow us to do anything normally," she said. Despite this lack of normality, all the pardoned stated that a year later their ideas remained untouched, despite some having left the political front line. "Neither in silence nor in hiding; with heads held high", she summarised.

One of the tougher dilemmas poised by pardons is that they did not mean any improvement for all other defendants in cases linked to the Independence bid. This led parties to celebrate the release of prisoners, but with a self-imposed restraint, because all other cases were still open. For this reason, ERC wanted this Wednesday's event also to show support for all other victims of reprisals and demand an end to all forms of repression. Another of those pardoned, Raül Romeva, made an extensive summary of all the open cases –including exiles– to conclude that, despite the pardons given a year ago, Spain continues to be "a repressive state".

Despite the fact that the issue did not take centre stage, it was inevitable to talk about the fact that pardons are not over yet, since in recent weeks the possibility of the Supreme Court reversing pardons has been gaining momentum. There is no certainty that it will nor that it won't, but the threat is very present, as former Speaker Carme Forcadell said. "They are reviewing our pardons. We always have the sword of Damocles hanging above us threatening us and showing us who is in command," she lamented

Future strategy

ERC president Oriol Junqueras, the fourth pardoned member of Esquerra, then spoke about the party's future strategy. For him there are two central elements that must continue to be pursued – apart from independence – despite the Spanish government's reluctance. The first is amnesty, which is "the most useful tool" to end repression. And not only this, but he has recalled that amnesty would be possible even if it were legislative backing only", meaning that it would only need a favourable vote from the parties which voted Pedro Sánchez in as president, without the opposition's. However, the Socialists have repeatedly opposed this idea.

The dialogue table has not had many results either, but Junqueras has once again made it clear that his party will not give it up no matter how much it continues to be torpedoed by the Spanish government, the right and some sectors of the pro-independence movement. ERC is committed to the principle that "negotiation is useful to resolve political conflicts" and does not plan to give it up. "If the Spanish government would like to spare itself the negotiating table, the last thing we should do is to spare it the table that bothers it so much", Junquras proclaimed.