The Spanish Supreme Court on Thursday dropped sedition charges against exiled Catalan leaders, including former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.
The move coincided with a new reform of Spain's penal code, which took effect on Thursday, and eliminates the charge of sedition and modifies the crime of malversation, or misuse of public funds.
The Supreme Court also dropped sedition charges against other Catalan exiled separatist politicians Antonio Comin, Lluis Puig, Clara Ponsati and Marta Rovira.
All the exiled Catalan leaders fled Spain in 2017 after a botched attempt to break the region of Catalonia away from Spain.
For more than four years, they have been living in other European countries such as Belgium and Scotland.
For just as long, Spanish authorities have been trying to extradite the politicians back to Spain to face justice.
However, one of the reasons the extradition attempts have failed is that the charge of sedition does not exist in those countries.
In Spain, the sedition law was written in 1822, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the penal code reform was Spain "taking a step forward in terms of becoming more like other European democracies."
For the right wing of Spanish politics, the penal code reform was seen as a concession to Catalan separatists, who are helping prop up Spain's progressive coalition government.
The government is "starting to pay back the first favors" to the separatists, said conservative Madrid politician Isabel Diaz Ayuso. "Over the never months, you'll see things that will make your blood run cold … the illegal independence of Catalonia is already well on track."
Although the government replaced sedition with a lesser crime of "aggravated public disorders," the ruling Supreme Court judge on Thursday wrote that one cannot charge people with an offense that did not exist when it was theoretically committed.
Most of the exiled Catalan politicians still face charges of misuse of public funds and disobedience.
The rest of the Catalan separatist leaders, who did not flee after 2017, faced trials in Spain and were handed prison sentences of up to 13 years.
However, in June 2021, Spain's progressive government formally pardoned the nine politicians with the heaviest sentences.
Source: Anadolu Agency