Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez adjusts his mask after delivering a statement regarding pardons for jailed Catalan separatist leaders,, | JUAN MEDINA


Spain's government this afternoon pardoned all nine separatist leaders jailed for their role in Catalonia's failed independence bid in 2017, expressing hope that the gesture might help end a trial of strength that has sown deep divisions.

The leaders were sentenced in 2019 to between nine and 13 years for sedition and misuse of public funds, after a referendum on a breakaway that authorities in Madrid banned but which led to a short-lived declaration of independence, triggering Spain's worst political crisis in decades.

"With this act we want to open a new phase of dialogue, of reconciliation, and to stop, once and for all, all the divisions and confrontation," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a televised address, as one of the nine leaders reacted defiantly to news of the pardons.
They are conditional, and a ban on the leaders holding public office remains in place, Sanchez said, without specifying when the nine will be freed.

A government source said the decree granting the pardons, which could be rescinded in the event of a serious crime, should be published on Wednesday, and that the Supreme Court was unlikely to authorise the leaders' release before then.