PM Pedro Sanchez's government approves pardons for nine Catalan separatist leaders jailed for their role in a failed independence bid in the region in 2017.
Spain has pardoned nine Catalan leaders jailed over a failed 2017 independence bid, in a bid to break the political deadlock over the wealthy northeastern region's separatist aims.
Writing on Twitter, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's office said "the pardons for those convicted were approved" during Tuesday morning's cabinet meeting.
The leaders were sentenced in 2019 to between nine and 13 years for crimes of sedition and misuse of public funds, committed in organising a referendum on breaking away from Spain that authorities in Madrid banned but which led to a short-lived declaration of independence.
PM Sanchez has described the pardons, which surveys show that a majority of Spaniards oppose, as a goodwill gesture and a first step towards resolving a bitter political conflict with the wealthy northeastern region, whose government has sought a new referendum on independence under Madrid’s auspices.
Former Catalan vice president, Oriol Junqueras, who in 2019 got the heaviest sentence of 13 years in prison for sedition and misuse of public funds, will go free along with his associates after spending three-and-a-half years behind bars.
The pardons lifted the remaining years of their prison terms, while keeping intact their status as being unfit to hold public office.
The government said that the pardons could be revoked if their beneficiaries try to lead another breakaway bid.
Conservative opposition parties in Madrid have said they will challenge the pardons in the courts, while hundreds of separatists protested in Barcelona on Monday, considering Sanchez's plan insufficient and demanding a new referendum on the region's independence.
READ MORE: Spain to pardon jailed Catalan separatists behind failed independence bid