MADRID, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Some 170,000 people marched through Madrid on Saturday against an amnesty law agreed by Spain’s Socialists against Catalonia’s 2017 separatist bid.
The demonstration was the latest in a series of protests in cities across the country against the amnesty, the law in response to Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez agreeing to a four-year term in office with the support of Catalan and Basque nationalist parties.
Protesters waved Spanish flags and carried signs reading “Sanchez Traitor” and “Don’t Sell Spain,” as four judicial associations, opposition political parties and business leaders demonstrated against the law, which they said threatened the rule of law and the separation of powers. .
Officials put the number of demonstrators at 170,000.
The march, which was organized by civil groups, was also attended by the leader of the opposition conservative People’s Party, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, and the leader of the far-right Vox party, Santiago Abascal.
After the rally, hundreds of people protested on the highway near the Moncloa Palace, the prime minister’s residence in Madrid. The A6 road was closed for about an hour during the demonstration but reopened after police cleared the area.
A small protest was held outside the Spanish embassy in London.
Around 400 people, including policemen, who clashed with separatists and activists in the independence drive in 2017 will be granted amnesty.
The independence referendum was declared illegal by the courts and caused Spain’s worst political crisis in decades.
According to Spain’s CSIC Research Council, Spain’s amnesty, the first approved in the EU since 1991, is the largest since the 1977 amnesty for crimes committed during the Francisco Franco dictatorship.
Sanchez, who won Thursday’s parliamentary vote to form a new government by 179 to 171, backed the law saying amnesty would help ease tensions in Catalonia.
Protesters, including neo-Nazi groups, have staged rowdy demonstrations outside Socialist headquarters in Madrid for 15 consecutive nights since the deal was announced. Clashes with police have resulted in injuries to officers and demonstrators, but the protests are generally peaceful.
In a mid-September survey by Metroscopia, 70% of respondents – 59% of whom were socialist supporters – said they were against the idea of amnesty.
Report by Graham Kiely; Additional reporting by Susana Vera, Raul Catenas, Silvio Castellanos; Editing by Clelia Oziel and Mike Harrison
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