Thousands protest in Madrid over proposed amnesty for Catalan separatists

© Javier Soriano, AFP

Tens of thousands of Spaniards took to the streets of Madrid on Saturday to denounce a proposed amnesty law for Catalan separatists and activists, which was key for the left-wing government to retain power.

Around 170,000 people, according to police, gathered in Plaza de Cibeles in the heart of the Spanish capital in response to a call by right-wing leaders opposed to the amnesty plan.

Cries of "Sanchez, traitor", "Sanchez in jail" and "Catalonia is Spain" were shouted by protesters of all ages who carried Spanish and other European flags distributed by the European People's Party.

"What Pedro Sanchez wants is to cut Spain into pieces, to have the Basque country on one side and Catalonia on the other, and to say nothing happened," said Maria Angeles Galan, a 65-year-old retiree from Madrid at the rally.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, in power since 2018, came second in July parliamentary elections behind right-wing leader Alberto Nunez Feijoo, but managed to be reinstated after winning support from regionalist groups including Catalan pro-independence parties.

In exchange for their votes, which were essential for reaching a governing majority, Sanchez accepted several concessions including the adoption of the amnesty bill for separatist leaders and activists who were prosecuted for their involvement in Catalonia's 2017 secession attempt.

Also present at the demonstration was the leader of the far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal, who called the law "as serious as a coup d'etat".

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