MADRID (Reuters) – About 170,000 people marched through the streets of Madrid on Saturday in the largest protest yet against an amnesty law approved by Spain’s socialists over Catalonia’s 2017 separatist push to form a government.
The demonstration, the latest in a series of protests in cities across the country against the amnesty, took place two days after Spanish Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez won a four-year term with the support of Catalan and Basque nationalist parties in exchange for approval of the law.
The demonstrators, many of whom waved Spanish flags and carried banners reading “Sanchez is a traitor” and “Don’t sell out Spain,” demonstrated against the law, which four judicial associations, opposition political parties and business leaders said threatened the rule of law and separation of powers. .
The authorities estimated the number of demonstrators at 170,000.
Alberto Nunez Viejo, leader of the opposition conservative People’s Party, and Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox party, attended the march organized by civic groups.
After the demonstration, hundreds of people protested on the highway near Moncloa Palace, the Prime Minister’s residence in Madrid. The A6 was closed for about an hour during the protest but later reopened after police cleared the area.
A small protest was held outside the Spanish Embassy in London.
The amnesty will include about 400 people involved in the independence bid that reached its peak in 2017, including separatists but also police involved in clashes with activists.
The courts declared the independence referendum illegal and led to the worst political crisis Spain has witnessed in decades.
The amnesty would be the largest in Spain since the 1977 blanket amnesty for crimes committed during Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, and the first amnesty law to be approved in the European Union since 1991, according to Spain’s CSIC research council.
Sanchez, who won a parliamentary vote to form a new government on Thursday with 179 votes in favor and 171 against, defended the law, saying the amnesty would help defuse tensions in Catalonia.
Protesters, including neo-Nazi groups, have held noisy demonstrations outside the Socialist headquarters in Madrid for 15 consecutive nights since the deal was announced. Clashes occurred with the police, leading to the injury of officers and demonstrators, but the protests were generally peaceful.
In a poll conducted by Metroscopia in mid-September, about 70% of respondents – 59% of whom were socialist supporters – said they were against the idea of an amnesty.
Graham Kelly reports. (Additional reporting by Susana Vera, Raul Cadenas and Silvio Castellanos) Editing by Clelia Oziel and Mike Harrison
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