Catalan leaders freed form prison, demand amnesty

The Catalan separatist leaders recently pardoned by the Spanish government walked out of prison on Wednesday (June 23).

They were jailed for their role in the failed 2017 independence referendum.

Now, after being sentenced in 2019, they were greeted by crowds of cheers and hugs by supporters.

This is former Catalan parliament speaker, Carme Forcadel:

"What we want is amnesty. Today is a day of joy, especially for those who have left prison today and our families, but the joy is not full because what we want is repression to end so every person that has been punished can go out on the street freely like us and those in exile can return.

The separatists are hoping for blanket amnesty for the around 3,000 people with legal cases related to the referendum. The Spanish government has ruled this out.

They've also ruled out the prospect of another independence referendum.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the pardons of nine politicians a gesture of goodwill.

He said they were necessary to promote dialogue between Madrid and the region, which is home to Barcelona.

The pardons are also conditional, and a ban on the leaders holding public office remains in place.

The move has divided the country.

Surveys show that a majority of Spaniards oppose the pardons, and about half of the Catalan population supports independence.

The leader of Spain's opposition People's Party has called on Sanchez to resign.