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Spain govt and Catalan parties agree new amnesty bill

Spain’s ruling Socialists and Catalan independence parties said they had agreed on a new amnesty law bill that has polarised the country.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pledged to pass an amnesty exonerating figures sentenced or prosecuted for their role in Catalonia’s failed 2017 independence bid in exchange for crucial parliamentary support from hardline Catalan separatist party JxCat.

Mr Sanchez’s Socialists failed to secure a majority in inconclusive general elections last year and his fragile left-wing minority government needs support of other groups to pass legislation.

Highlighting this vulnerability, lawmakers rejected a first amnesty bill on 30 January, with JxCat MPs saying it did not go far enough and did not protect all relevant people, starting with exiled ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont.

“After days of joint work and taking into account the directives of European and international constitutional law,” the parties “have reached an agreement… to strengthen the amnesty law”, they announced in a joint statement.

The law will concern “all people linked to the independence process” and will be “fully compliant with the constitution, the law and European jurisprudence”, they said.

Speaking during a trip to Brasilia, Mr Sanchez defended the amnesty law as “constitutional and compliant with European law”.

Ex-Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont

The right-wing opposition has slammed the amnesty proposal, which the main conservative Popular Party described as a “humiliation” and which sparked huge protests.

For many on the Spanish right, Mr Puigdemont is public enemy number one. A parliamentary commission was due to examine the bill before it is voted on at a later date.

Spain’s Supreme Court last week announced it was opening an investigation against Mr Puigdemont on suspicion of “terrorism” charges.

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