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Spain lawmakers begin debating divisive amnesty bill

MADRID (AFP) – Spanish lawmakers began debating a controversial bill to grant an amnesty to Catalan separatists that was pledged by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to remain in power.

The amnesty was offered six years after a failed independence bid by Catalan separatists, with Sanchez insisting it would help “turn the page” on Spain’s worst political crisis in decades that still stirs up very raw emotions.

For years, Sanchez opposed such a move but recently admitted he’d had a change of heart.

Even though such a step was “complex to explain” to the Spanish public, it was a “necessary decision” to learn from what happened in 2017 and move towards a “resolution” of the conflict with Catalonia, he said on Monday.

Promising the measure would be swiftly adopted by Spain’s Parliament had won Sanchez the key support of Catalan separatist lawmakers that enabled him to be sworn in last month for a new term in office.

Once passed, the law will allow the courts to drop the charges against hundreds of separatist leaders and activists facing legal action over their role in the October 2017 crisis, in a process that should be completed within two months.

Huge crowds of protesters have hit the streets in Spain to denounce the amnesty bill in recent weeks. PHOTO: AFP