Spanish govt reforms sedition law in nod to Catalan allies
MADRID (AP) — Spain on Thursday sealed final approval for controversial reforms to the crimes of sedition and embezzlement, a move by the ruling center-left coalition to retain the support of a pro-independence Catalan party and ease tensions in the northeastern region.
The package passed by a majority of senators scraps the crime of sedition for one of public disorder and reduces sentences for some embezzlement convictions. It was already passed by an ample majority in the lower house.
These two issues angered the main right-wing opposition Popular Party and other opposition groups who see them as intolerable concessions to groups that tried to break up Spain in an illegal secession push in 2017.
They claim the changes are also a cynical move to appease the pro-independent Catalonia party ERC that shores up the government’s voting power in Parliament and had requested the changes.
Many pro-Catalan independence politicians and officials — many from the ERC — who face trial over, or have already been convicted for, the attempt at secession could stand to benefit from the proposed changes.
Sedition, on the books since 1822, and embezzlement were among the main charges against nine of 12 pro-independence Catalan activists and politicians who were convicted for their roles in a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain issued on Oct. 27, 2017, following an illegal secession referendum earlier that month.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez issued partial pardons of the nine separatists last year, releasing them from prison after they had spent three years behind bars serving sentences that ranged between nine and 15 years. They are, however, still banned from holding public office.
Sánchez said the reforms brought Spain in line with other European democracies. He denies the reforms are a concession to secessionists, but agrees they will help ease tensions between Spain and the northeastern region.
The secession push was Spain’s most serious political crisis for several decades.
Sánchez said the reform wouldn’t exempt former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his associates who fled the country in 2017 from eventually standing trial if they return, albeit for a crime with a lower sentence.
Sedition was punishable by 10 to 15 years in prison The crime of aggravated public disorder holds punishments of three to five years behind bars. It also reduces the time span for bans from holding public office.
The embezzlement reform introduces a reduced sentence of up to four years for cases where no personal profit of the accused is detected. If there is personal profit, sentencing remains the same at between eight and 12 years.
Raquel Redondo in Madrid contributed to this report.