June 21 (UPI) -- Nine separatists who were jailed for efforts to separate Catalonia from Spain in a referendum four years ago could soon be pardoned, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Monday.
Speaking to civic leaders in the Catalan capital of Barcelona, Sanchez said he'll make a recommendation to government leaders to pardon the nine separatists at a meeting on Tuesday.
"In the next few days, Spanish democracy will take a huge step toward reconciliation," Sanchez said, according to Bloomberg. "It is from here that we have to start on the path to rebuilding our ability to live together."
While Catalonia's effort to seek independence from Spain failed, it aided Sanchez's election and his socialist government in 2018.
The separatists, which include former Catalan Deputy Premier Oriol Junqueras, have served more than three years so far for their roles in organizing an independence referendum in 2017. Former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont has been in exile in Belgium.
"The pandemic has reminded us that we need one another," Sanchez said, according to El Pais. "Almost always to reach an agreement, someone has to take the first step. We are going to rebuild social harmony from respect and regard.
"We cannot start from scratch, but we can start again. We love you Catalonia."
Madrid Premier Isabel Diaz Ayuso, a member of Spain's leading opposition Popular Party, railed against the move.
"This betrayal cannot be forgiven," Diaz Ayuso said, according to El Pais. "His days are numbered. People can put up with other things, but this is unbearable."