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More than three and a half years later, the Spanish state that unjustly locked them behind bars to safeguard the unity of Spain and sentenced them to a hundred years in prison, will release them this Wednesday at 12 noon, the nine Catalan pro-independence political prisoners, who will leave the prisons of Lledoners, Wad-Ras and Puig de les Basses to not return, after the pardons by the government of Pedro Sánchez. Carme Forcadell, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez, Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Quim Forn, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa will regain the liberty that was snatched from them. They will do so the day after the Council of Europe, in a clarifying and humiliating vote for the Spanish judiciary, approved by a very large majority a report calling for the release of political prisoners, the withdrawal of the arrest warrants for the exiled politicians and the end of the repression of the independence movement.

Nine people who have been deprived of a total of about 12,000 days of liberty will be back with their families and friends, will be able to return to work and lead normal lives, putting an end to a nightmare as unjust as inhuman. The Spanish state does not demonstrate with this pardon its greatness and its vision but on the contrary the fragility of its institutional carcass. There is no generosity but European imposition linked to European aid. Chancellor Angela Merkel had said in more than one conversation that this situation could not continue.

Pedro Sánchez and Felipe VI will stamp their signatures on the nine pardon decrees that will be published immediately in the official Spanish gazette, but neither the prisoners, nor their families, nor the independence movement have any debt to any of them. Nor does the conviction that the Popular Party would never have approved the pardons, which the PSOE has done, exempt the Socialists and Sánchez from their responsibility in October 2017 for supporting police violence and leading to the suspension of Catalonia's self-government which gave way to imprisonment, exile, and repression. In fact, the Catalan political prisoners have spent more time in prison with Pedro Sánchez and Carmen Calvo in the Moncloa palace than with Mariano Rajoy and Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría.

The pardons remove the pending jail time for sedition and misuse of funds and maintain the sentences banning them from holding office, which, in practice, prevents them from taking any institutional position or running for election. In the small print, the Spanish government keeps a card up its sleeve: any one of those pardoned will return to prison if they reoffend within a period ranging, according to the pardons, from three to six years. A saved cartridge in case the We'll do it again goes, in the case of some of them, from being a verbal claim to a real action.

Sánchez has followed the path marked by Europe, as did his predecessor José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero in 2010 when Brussels imposed draconian social cuts to reduce the public deficit. Europe has set the course and Sánchez, tied by an insufficient majority in Congress, if he did not take the step, begins a new legislature with the counter at zero. It now depends on the pro-independence parties to secure the return of the exiles and the end of the repression with more than 3,000 affected, as their votes will decide whether or not Sánchez goes to early elections. The dialogue table could be a pleasant party or it could be a negotiating table with amnesty and self-determination. Madrid has the power but key cards are held by the Catalan government as long as it does not misplay them.

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