The Council of Ministers will approve this Tuesday the granting of pardons to the pro-independence leaders condemned by the ‘procés’. This measure of grace, included in the Constitution, has been applied on numerous occasions in the last four decades, also in controversial cases such as 23-F, the GAL or the Yak-42 accident. Only in 2020, according to data provided by Moncloa, there were 30 pardons. In 2019, 39; and in 2018, 17, being the lowest figure of the entire decade. In 2017 and 2016, 26 and 27, respectively.
Any inmate may request a pardon, and its concession is the responsibility of the King, upon a proposal from the head of Justice and its debate in the Council of Ministers. It must also be published in the Official State Gazette (BOE). The conviction may be waived in whole or in part, but it is not “erased” from the criminal record. The law establishes that a repeat offender cannot avail himself of this formula, although there may be exceptions if the court understands that there are “sufficient reasons of justice, equity or public convenience.”
And although as a rule these are anonymous cases and common prisoners, such as María Teresa de Jesús Moreno Maya, «Tani», who was convicted of murdering her husband after declaring that he mistreated her, in a democracy there have been pardons that have been linked to episodes in recent Spanish history.
General Armada or the GAL
One such case was that of General Alfonso Armada, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in April 1983 for rebellion, due to his involvement in the Coup d’état of 23-F, 1981. Armada, who was Secretary General of the House of the King, and who had been elected to preside over the Government if the coup prospered, always maintained that he had been deceived by Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Tejero, the face that executed the coup.
Armada, who was serving a sentence in Alcalá Meco, began to have health problems five years after entering prison and was hospitalized for a stroke. Later heart disease was detected. Due to his health problems, and that the Spanish Constitution recognized, the Government of Felipe González approved his pardon on Christmas Eve, 1988.
Linked to the Socialist Executive, another of the “most famous pardons of democracy” also appears. Former minister Jose Barrionuevo and the former secretary of state
Rafael Vera they were sentenced to ten years in prison in 1998 for the kidnapping of Segundo Marey. This action was considered the first terrorist act of the LAGs and, despite the condemnation, the Socialist Party carried out a strong campaign of public support for both.
They entered prison on September 10, 1998 and on December 24, the Executive of José María Aznar processed their pardon, allowing them to return home for Christmas. It was a partial pardon, commuting two-thirds of the sentence, compared to the total pardon demanded by the Socialists. They returned to prison in 2001, but within hours they were on probation.
Mass pardon for the turn of the millennium
The turn of the century was the motivation for Angel Acebes, Minister of Justice of the PP in 2000, to grant a massive pardon: more than a thousand prisoners benefited from the measure, among them the magistrate of the National High Court Javier Gómez de Liaño, on the condition that he no longer occupies his position in court. Gómez de Liaño was sentenced to 15 years of disqualification accused of a crime of continued prevarication in the Sogecable Case. Years later, in 2008, the European Court of Human Rights agreed with him after resorting to the European body, understanding that in his judicial process the court that tried him had not been impartial, although Strasbourg did not absolve him of the crimes by not having jurisdiction in the Spanish Justice.
Another Minister of Justice of the PP, Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, granted clemency to commander and to Yak-42 medical captain, charged after the accident of falsify the identifications of half of the corpses of the soldiers who died in the accident of the aircraft. They were sentenced to 18 months in prison and one year of disqualification and their pardon, granted on April 20, 2012, annulled their disqualification.