Spain’s socialist-led coalition government approved Tuesday the controversial pardons for nine Catalan politicians jailed for their involvement in the illegal and ill-fated referendum and declaration of independence in 2017.
The nine politicians, including former regional vice-president Oriol Junqueras, in 2019 were sentenced to between nine and 13 years in prison for sedition and misuse of public funds.
The decision to pardon the Catalan leaders remains deeply divisive with the opposition and the Spanish public.
Opinion polls showed over 60% of the general public did not agree with the pardon.
Right-wing parties opposed to Sanchez accused him of abandoning his anti-pardon position and said they would file an appeal before the Supreme Court to challenge the padrons.
Pro-independence parties have called for full amnesty and an independence referendum, while hundreds protested in Barcelona saying the pardons were not enough to resolve the conflict with Catalonia.
But Sanchez says the move is a goodwill gesture and a necessary step for peace and reconciliation between Spain and Catalonia.
The events of 2017 brought Spain to the brink of a constitutional crisis. The erstwhile prime minister, Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Popular Party, activated a constitutional article that temporarily stripped Catalonia of its autonomy and dissolved its parliament.
The former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and several others fled Spain to avoid legal charges.