Police seize pistol from military officer at Spanish amnesty protest

MADRID (Reuters) – A Spanish military officer was arrested with a pistol at a demonstration against an amnesty law which will benefit Catalan separatists involved in a failed 2017 bid for independence, police said on Sunday.

The second-lieutenant, who is based at the Zaragoza Military Academy training base, was arrested during a police check at the demonstration outside the Socialist party headquarters on Saturday night, police sources told Reuters.

About 1,500 people took part in the demonstration, the 16th consecutive protest outside the Socialists’ headquarters. Six people were arrested including the military officer.

During the protests there have been clashes between police and protesters but no weapons have been discovered until now.

El Confidencial, a Spanish news site, reported on Sunday that the officer had a private weapon that was not a pistol used for military purposes.

He was not charged but could face a fine of up to 30,000 euros ($32,700) if convicted of illegal possession of weapons.

Earlier the same day, about 170,000 people marched through Madrid on Saturday in the largest protest yet against an amnesty law which Spain’s Socialists agreed to over Catalonia’s 2017 separatist bid in return for support in forming a government.

The demonstrations took place two days after Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez won a four-year term with the backing of Catalan and Basque nationalist parties in return for agreeing to the law.

The independence referendum was declared illegal by the courts and resulted in Spain’s worst political crisis for decades.

Sanchez has defended the law saying an amnesty would help to defuse tensions in Catalonia.

($1 = 0.9168 euros)

(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Hugh Lawson)