Spain's parliament on Thursday passed a controversial amnesty bill for Catalan separatists, paving the way for the return of their figurehead Carles Puigdemont after years of self-imposed exile.

The text, which has been resolutely opposed by Spain's right and far-right opposition, passed by 177 votes in favour to 172 votes against in the 350-seat parliament. There were no abstentions but one person was absent from the vote.