13th April 2024
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PP tries to backtrack on whether Feijóo had been willing to pardon Puigdemont

Spain’s main opposition party, the right-wing People’s Party (PP), has denied that any conversations with the Catalan pro-independence party Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) took place regarding a possible pardon for Carles Puigdemont, after the PP leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, said at the weekend that he had previously opened the door to grant a ‘conditional pardon’.

On Saturday, Feijóo had let slip during conversations with Spanish journalists that he had supported giving Puigdemont a conditional pardon. He later tried to clarify his remarks, saying the conditions were not right at present, although he believed ‘a conditional pardon’ could be considered in the future.

Up to now, the PP has always been publicly very critical of the controversial amnesty law agreed between Spain’s socialist PSOE-led government and the Catalan pro-independence parties, JxCat and Esquerra Republicana (ERC), which is currently in a parliamentary commission after its first failed vote in the Spanish Congress. ALSO READ: ‘Junts per Catalunya’ vote against amnesty bill on grounds it doesn’t go far enough.

While the PP has admitted to holding talks with JxCat after the 23 July elections, in which the PP won the most seats but fell short of a majority, the party has said that any suggestion of an amnesty for Puigdemont was always rejected as ‘unconstitutional’ and would never have arisen. ALSO READ: Spain’s right-wing PP win the election, but not a majority, even with far-right Vox.

However, in comments made on Saturday to journalists, Feijóo indicated that he had been open to negotiating a pardon for Puigdemont in exchange for JxCat voting in favour of his investiture as Spanish prime minister. The offer from the PP – according to journalists present – was that a pardon could be offered to Puigdemont and others in the independence movement, ‘if they show remorse and turn themselves in to Spanish justice’, giving ‘an explicit commitment not to repeat the events of 2017’, as well as renounce a referendum and the independence of Catalonia via a unilateral route. [See Background to Catalan politcial conflict below].

On the Sunday, Feijóo tried to deny the news headlines of those negotiations, but then further complicated his stance when he admitted that at this time ‘the conditions are not present’ to pardon the Catalan president in exile. He also said he had dismissed JxCat’s demand for an amnesty law ‘within 24 hours’, implying that his party had also considered this as a possibility.

The spokesperson for the PP in Congress, Miguel Tellado, stated on Monday that his party has never had contact with JxCat. ‘There are no contacts and there never have been,’ he said.

Feijóo’s comments at the weekend contradict his party’s fierce opposition to the amnesty law, which it has vowed to eventually block in the Spanish Senate, where it commands a majority. The party has harshly criticised the proposed law during all debates in the Congress and, alongside the far-right Vox party, has also organised and participated in dozens of demonstrations against it, with several of them turning violent. ALSO READ: Feijóo vows to continue protests against amnesty ‘until there are new elections’.

Feijóo’s comments have rocked the PP ahead of elections in the north-west region of Galicia on Sunday 18 February, where the right-wing group has ruled for 34 of the past 43 years. Polls had already shown the PP losing votes to the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG).

Some Spanish media have also reported that the PP leader’s comments were an attempt to mitigate a veiled threat from Puigdemont that he is ready to reveal what Feijóo offered his JxCat party during secret talks after the 23 July election, which left Spain with a hung parliament.

Spanish government spokesperson Pilar Alegría also said that the PP was ‘speaking now because they are afraid that JxCat will reveal the truth’.

Background to Catalan political conflict

Nine Catalan politicians and activists were jailed for between 9-13 years by the Spanish Supreme Court in October 2019, convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds for their role in the 2017 illegal referendum, with the verdicts causing widespread protests across Catalonia. In June 2021, the nine walked free from prison, following pardons granted by the government led by socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, but they remained banned from holding public office.

Late last year, Spain passed a controversial criminal code reform that downgraded the two charges used against them, abolishing sedition and replacing it with that of aggravated public disorder, and also reducing the penalty for misuse of public funds.

Misuse of public funds can carry prison time of between six months and up to five years if convicted, but disobedience only carries a disqualification from public office.

Carles Puigdemont led the government of Catalonia when it staged the referendum banned by Madrid and the courts, which was followed by a short-lived declaration of independence.

Click here for all our reports related to Catalan independence.

ALSO READ: Judges extend probes into Puigdemont’s alleged ‘Kremlin ties’ and ‘Tsunami terrorism’.

ALSO READ: Pedro Sánchez faces backlash and tough legislature ahead due to Catalan deal.

ALSO READ: The PSOE and Junts sign a pact that will guarantee investiture of Pedro Sánchez.

ALSO READ: Spanish judge now wants to question Puigdemont as part of terrorism investigation.

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