The Spanish court ruling on Tuesday is seen as a gesture that the Spanish government hopes will foster dialogue to keep the region deflating its push for self-determination.
Spanish courts had convicted all the members of Catalonia’s former government who had not fled Spain, as well as two political activists and the speaker of the regional parliament.
Oriol Junqueras is the most prominent of the jailed leaders and received the longest sentence - 13 years - over sedition and misuse of public funds.
Raül Romeva was sentenced to 12 years over sedition and misuse of public funds for his role as Catalonia’s foreign affairs chief during the referendum.
Others included Jordi Turull, the regional government’s spokesman in charge of the presidency department during the 2017 crisis, while Dolors Bassa was sentenced to 12 years over sedition and misuse of public funds.
Carme Forcadell is the oldest among the jailed leaders and was sentenced to 11 years and six months over sedition.
In a statement, the Greens/EFA group said it welcomed the decision that comes after what it calls a “disproportionate” judicial sentence and “almost four years of unfair imprisonment.”
“Nine peaceful democrats have been unjustly imprisoned for four years simply for their role in organising a peaceful and democratic referendum. This should never have happened in the European Union” Jordi Solé, Greens/EFA
In a joint statement, Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts, Greens/EFA leaders in Parliament, said, “We strongly support the decision taken by the progressive government of Spain.”
“These pardons should be the first step towards a new stage of dialogue and negotiations. We encourage the Spanish and Catalan governments to seize this important political moment to move towards the political solution that we have always asked for.”
“A political solution based on justice and democracy. The established dialogue table is a good opportunity to move towards this direction.”
Greens/EFA member Diana Riba added, “The Spanish government has taken the initiative in order to improve the situation of nine people who have been in jail for four years for the organisation of a democratic and peaceful referendum.”
“These pardons will be positive for their individual situations and obviously for their relatives. However, the same prisoners, as well as the political exiles and more than 3,000 people, are still being unjustly prosecuted in many other judicial cases in which they are also facing jail sentences and huge financial penalties of millions of euros.”
“So we ask for a comprehensive solution and substantive negotiations in order to allow the Catalan people to decide their future freely and democratically.”
The European Free Alliance (EFA) group in Parliament also welcomed the announcement, with EFA leader Jordi Sole saying that “whilst the announcement is a positive first step to find a political solution through dialogue, it does not represent an end to the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain, and Catalonia’s right to self-determination must be respected.”
“The Spanish government has taken the initiative in order to improve the situation of nine people who have been in jail for four years for the organisation of a democratic and peaceful referendum” Diana Riba, Greens/EFA
He also emphasised that the pardons represent only a partial step “as potentially thousands of Catalans still face legal action for their role in the referendum.”
He added, “This includes action from the Court of Auditors which amounts to economic harassment that could financially ruin many people who simply supported the right to hold a referendum. There also needs to be action to resolve the situation of the Catalan exiles which must be addressed.”
The MEP added, “Although limited in scope, this is a first step in what we hope will be a new phase leading to a political solution of the conflict between Catalonia and Spain.”
“Whilst limited pardons will certainly improve the situation, we can’t ignore that the general crusade against the pro-independence movement by elements of the Spanish state continues.”
“Thousands more Catalans still face the prospect of prosecution and economic harassment simply for supporting a democratic vote. Their situation must also be addressed and that is why we call for a general amnesty.”
“Nine peaceful democrats have been unjustly imprisoned for four years simply for their role in organising a peaceful and democratic referendum. This should never have happened in the European Union.”