Nine pardoned pro-independence Catalan leaders to walk free

Nine separatists pardoned by the Spanish government are expected on Wednesday to leave the prisons where they were serving lengthy terms for organizing a bid for an independent Catalonia republic nearly four years ago.

Spain’s Cabinet pardoned them Tuesday in the hope of starting what Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called a much-needed reconciliation in the country’s restive northeastern region.

Former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras, five fellow Cabinet members, the former regional parliament’s speaker and two pro-independence activists are expected to walk free at noon on Wednesday after spending between three-and-a-half and four years behind bars.

Spain’s official gazette published earlier in the day the government decree pardoning them.

The order canceled the remainder of prison terms ranging from nine to 13 years over sedition and misuse of public funds linked to the 2017 banned referendum and a short-lived independence declaration. But the separatists won’t be able to hold public office until the end of their sentences and they could go back to prison if they go against Spanish law again, the decree said.