Spain's top court opposes pardoning jailed Catalan separatists

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MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's Supreme Court opposes potential government pardons for the 12 Catalan separatist leaders convicted for their role in the region's failed independence bid in 2017, it said in a non-binding report on Tuesday.

The government had to hear the opinion of Spain's top court before taking its own final decision, which it is expected to announce over the summer.

The report comes at a time when Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has hinted he is considering to issue a pardon just as he is expected to resume talks with Catalonia's new pro-independence government on the region's political conflict.

"There is time for punishment and time for concord," Sanchez told parliament on Wednesday when asked about the potential pardons.

He declined to elaborate further as the opposition attacked his stance, saying it undermined Spain's unity.

He told reporters on Tuesday that his eventual decision would "take into account constitutional values such as harmony, dialogue and understanding".

In October 2019, the court sentenced nine Catalan separatist politicians and activists to between nine and 13 years in jail on sedition charges for organising an unauthorised referendum on independence and issuing a short-lived unilateral declaration of independence.

The three other defendants were found guilty of disobedience and not sentenced to prison.

In its report, the court considered the sentences issued were appropriate for the crimes and said that "there is not the slightest evidence or faintest hint of contrition" on behalf of the sentenced leaders for their actions.

Regret is one of the requirements for granting a pardon, which is a political decision reserved for the government.

(Reporting by Belén Carreño and Joan Faus, editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)

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