The new Spanish coalition government said this week that it is open to modifying the crime of sedition, and intends to include it among other proposed reforms to the criminal code that it will present to the Spanish Congress.
The new government spokeswoman María Jesús Montero said during a press briefing on Tuesday that the aim of the proposed reform would be to ‘clarify’ and adapt certain offences to the ‘reality’ of the ‘current age’.
The Spanish Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders involved in the October 2017 independence bid to up to 13 years in prison for sedition in October. The sentences provoked mass protests across Catalonia during October and early November.
In addition to crimes related to sexual consent – also a major issue in Spain following the initial verdict in ‘La Manada‘ (Wolf Pack) trial and similar cases – Montero said the reform proposals would include those ‘related to the events that took place in Catalonia.’
It has been reported in the Spanish media that one proposal could be to toughen up the penalties for the crime of rebellion whilst reducing the sentences for sedition.
For any reform to Spain’s criminal code to be approved, the new PSOE-Podemos coalition government would need an absolute majority of 176 votes in the Spanish Congress – 10 more votes than the 166 that allowed Pedro Sánchez to be voted back in as prime minister.
The right-wing People’s Party (PP), Ciudadanos (Cs) and far-right Vox are all strongly opposed to any change to the criminal code related to sedition. They also see it as a possible route for Sánchez to pardon the Catalan leaders in jail.
Meanwhile, newly elected Sánchez is due to meet with the Catalan president Quim Torra in early February. Sánchez and Torra have not held any official talks since 20 December 2018.
The Spanish government spokeswoman said the exact date had still not been set and that the meeting would be part of an ‘institutional’ round of talks with the heads of Spain’s autonomous communities.
Earlier in the week, in his first TV interview since being re-elected as prime minister, Pedro Sánchez said that he has the ‘absolute will to engage in dialogue’ with the Catalan president. He said that the Catalan independence issue is a ‘political’ conflict. During his speech in the Spanish Congress during his bid to be invested gain as prime minister, he not only said it is ‘political’ but also pledged to ‘leave judicialization behind’ in the matter.
To gather enough support to stay in power, Sánchez’s PSOE party forged an agreement with the Catalan pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party to commit to dialogue over the Catalan political crisis. The ERC-PSOE agreement sets out the creation of a bilateral negotiating table between the Spanish and Catalan governments up to 15 days after the formation of the Spanish government and states that ‘political means’ should be favoured whilst ‘overcoming the judicialization’ of the Catalan independence conflict.