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HomeworldYoung Catalan separatist sees justice, reparation in proposed amnesty

Young Catalan separatist sees justice, reparation in proposed amnesty

BARCELONA: When the Spanish region of Catalonia unilaterally declared independence in 2017, delivery driver Alex Ramon marked the date with a tattoo on his arm that read: “Fight, create, build.”

Three years later, Ramon was charged with causing damage and public disorder in a separatist protest for which he was convicted and told on Tuesday he had been sentenced to a year in jail. He is appealing against the conviction, his lawyer said.

Ramon is among more than a thousand Catalan politicians, officials and activists prosecuted over the region’s failed separatist bid who could see their convictions, or charges against them, wiped off the slate in the proposed amnesty.

The Socialist Party of acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez agreed to put forward the amnesty bill in parliament in exchange for the support of two Catalan separatist parties as Sanchez seeks re-election.

As negotiations to try to form a new government proceed following an inconclusive election in July, tensions heightened on Monday in Madrid with anti-amnesty demonstrators clashing with police outside Socialist Party headquarters.

For Ramon, who maintains that he was randomly targeted by police and accused of setting fire to a rubbish bin after participating peacefully in a protest, the amnesty would constitute the righting of a historic wrong.

“It would recognise all the pain we have suffered,” the 32-year-old told Reuters before appearing in court in Barcelona last month. “The day they caught me I hadn’t done anything. It could have happened to anyone on the street that day.”

The amnesty bill has unleashed a political storm in Spain, with its primarily conservative opponents accusing Sanchez of jeopardising the rule of law for his own political gain. Police used rubber bullets and smoke canisters to disperse protesters on Monday.

Ramon also believes any agreement would be primarily driven by politicians’ desire to remain in power. But it would also bring moral justice, he said.

“All of this (repression) has been really hard mentally,” he said. “It limits your movements a lot, you never know what will happen, what you can do and can’t do. I haven’t gone to a demonstration for three years because of fear.”

The socialists and separatist parties have not said how many people could be covered by the amnesty. Separatist organisation Omnium calculates that it could be around 1,500, most of them involved in protests.

Its president, Xavier Antich, told Reuters an amnesty would generate a more constructive relationship between the region and national government.

“It recognises that repression is not the way, that the aspirations of citizens are legitimate, and that the duty of the rule of law is to channel them,” he said.

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