Spain parliament votes against Catalan separatist amnesty bill

Last year, in exchange for parliamentary support, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to the law to allow him to form a minority leftist government.

Demonstrators hold up a banner reading: "No to Amnesty"
Demonstrators hold up a banner reading 'no to amnesty' as people wave Spanish and Navarre flags during a protest against an amnesty law, in Pamplona, northern Spain [File: Alvaro Barrientos/AP]

Catalan separatist lawmakers have voted against an amnesty bill amid disagreements on its scope between the ruling Socialists and a Catalan separatist party, dealing a blow to the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

The bill, which was rejected on Tuesday by 179 votes to 171, will return to a parliamentary committee for a debate and could potentially be sent back for another vote in the lower house.

Last year, in exchange for parliamentary support from two small Catalan separatist parties, Sanchez agreed to put forward the bill.

But the Catalan Junts voted against the bill after they failed to reach a last-minute deal with Sanchez’s Socialist Workers’ Party.

The Junts wanted all exceptions related to “terrorism” to be removed from the bill since some of the party’s politicians are currently under investigation by courts over alleged charges.

The party pushed for Carles Puigdemont, its former leader, to return home after currently living in Belgium as a fugitive.

Spain’s Supreme Court wants Puigdemont on charges of disobedience and embezzlement, and two lower courts are investigating him and others for possible “terrorism” charges.

“We will keep negotiating with a margin of 15 days more … There is no reason to approve an amnesty law with holes in it,” said Junts member Miriam Nogueras.

She added that the Socialists warned them the proposed amendments “could mean that the amnesty law runs into trouble in Europe”, but she said they were prepared for that.

Socialist Justice Minister Felix Bolanos told reporters that it was “absolutely incomprehensible that Junts should vote against a law it had agreed on” and do so with right-wing parties that want to see them jailed.

The amnesty bill is controversial in Spain, with heavy criticism from conservative and far-right opposition parties representing about half of the country’s population.

Many in the judiciary and the police are also opposed to the bill, including several top figures from Sanchez’s party.

Even if the bill had passed, it would still need to go through the Senate, where the conservative leading opposition, the Popular Party, has an absolute majority and has pledged to stall the bill and challenge it in court.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies