Spain's Senate passes controversial criminal code reform

AFP - [email protected]
Spain's Senate passes controversial criminal code reform
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez claps during Prime Minister's Questions session at the Senate in Madrid, on December 21st. Since taking over in June 2018, Sánchez has adopted a strategy of "defusing" the Catalonia conflict. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Spain's Senate on Thursday gave final approval to a controversial criminal code reform that downgrades two charges used against Catalan separatist leaders over their involvement in the failed 2017 independence bid.


The text, which was passed with the support of 140 of the 261 senators present, abolishes the offence of sedition and replaces it with a charge carrying softer penalties, and it also reduces the penalty for misuse of public funds.

Sedition was the charge used to convict and jail nine Catalan separatists over their failed secession bid, with several of them also convicted of misuse of public funds.


They were handed jail terms of between nine and 13 years, but later pardoned.

Analysts have said the move is aimed at courting Catalan separatist support ahead of next year's general election.

Since taking over in June 2018, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has adopted a strategy of "defusing" the Catalonia conflict which threw Spain into its worst political crisis in decades, maintaining dialogue with the moderate separatists and pardoning those involved in the independence bid.

The reform could also soften any future sentence for former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and several others who fled abroad during the crisis to escape prosecution.

The reforms have been fiercely criticised by the right-wing opposition Popular Party (PP), which denounced the move as "tailor-made for convicts", as well as some of Sanchez's own Socialists who have denounced him for giving into separatist demands.

Another clause of the reform, which would have paved the way for renewing the mandates of four of the Constitutional Court's 12 judges, was dropped from the text submitted to the Senate on Thursday following an unprecedented legal challenge by the PP earlier this week.

The move has sparked an institutional crisis in Spain which has been denounced by Sánchez's government as "unprecedented".

READ MORE: Why Spain is giving a ‘get out of jail free card’ to politicians


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