SPAIN’S Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit by a right-wing group accusing Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish president, of breaching his duty by pardoning nine Catalan independence leaders who had been jailed for their part in the 2017 Catalan indyref.

The case was brought by Derecha Liberal Espanola (Spanish Liberal Right) against Sanchez and Juan Carlos Campos, then justice minister.

Judges rejected it on the grounds that “whoever with powers exercised the pardons as provided by law”, recognition by the judiciary that the Spanish government has the right to release prisoners, ruling out its consideration as a breach of official duty – a criminal charge that could result in a prison sentence.

“The complainants themselves recognise the legitimacy of the Spanish government to grant total or partial pardons to those convicted by criminal courts and that the judging court and public prosecutor have issued their mandatory reports before the decision,” read the court’s ruling.

According to the minor party, the pardons were “a bargaining chip with Catalan pro-independence groups”.

Spain’s three main unionist, right-wing parties, People’s, Ciudadanos and Vox, all filed appeals against the pardons after they were announced.

Judges have not yet considered these, but the Supreme Court said that would fall under the remit of its administrative court.

Nine pro-independence politicians and activists were jailed for between nine and 13 years for their role in the indyref and subsequent declaration of independence, and served more than three years before Sanchez’s cabinet pardoned them in June.

The Supreme Court convicted the nine and the pardons could be challenged there, but it “is not so easy”, according to an academic at Barcelona University.

Jordi Nieva-Fenoll earlier told Catalan News the court can review them because in the past they have considered themselves to have the powers to do so. However, questions remained about who can mount the challenge and on what grounds.

Nieva-Fenoll said: “To challenge such a decision legally you have to be affected by the decision. And who is affected by the decision of the pardons?

“Many have thought of political parties, but why is it legitimate for them to challenge the decision? There is no ground. And any other person in society? Why? There is no ground either.”

He added: “The only reason so far where the Supreme Court has declared a pardon void is that it is arbitrary, against reason.”