June 14, 2018 / 11:45 AM / 3 months ago

Spanish government makes gesture to Catalan separatists on prisoners

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s new government on Thursday said it was open to moving jailed Catalan separatists closer to home, the latest gesture of goodwill to try to resolve the secession crisis in Catalonia through dialogue.

A man waves an "Estelada", Catalan separatist flag, outside the Generalitat Palace in Barcelona, Spain, May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Albert Gea

The cabinet lifted financial controls on Catalonia last week and said it would open talks with the region’s administration.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is due to meet Catalan regional chief Quim Torra before the summer, the first such meeting in several years.

Catalonia’s secessionist drive is one of the thorniest issues facing Sanchez after he toppled center-right premier Mariano Rajoy last month in a vote of no-confidence.

While he appears to be more open to dialogue than his predecessor, Sanchez has made clear he is opposed to any independence referendum or attempt at secession.

Nine members of the former Catalan government and heads of grassroots groups have been jailed pending trial for their part in an independence bid, prohibited under the constitution.

They are in jails near Madrid, several hundred miles away from their homes, and have repeatedly requested a transfer to prisons in Catalonia.

“If, in five or six months, the person is not needed by the judiciary, and always when the presiding judge gives authorization, the situation can be evaluated as to whether they are moved to help maintain a personal life,” Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said during a radio interview.

Reporting by Paul Day; Editing by Julien Toyer and Janet Lawrence

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