At the April 28 general election in Spain, five of the successful Catalan candidates for Congress and the Senate were in an unusual position. Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva (Catalan Republican Party, or ERC), Jordi Turull, Josep Rull and Jordi Sànchez (Together for Catalonia, or Junts per Catalunya) are all currently on trial in Spain’s Supreme Court for their role in the 2017 pro-independence drive in the northeastern Spanish region. Given that in the court’s opinion they presented a flight risk and could also potentially re-offend, they are also being held in custody, meaning that, in theory, they will be unable to take their seats in Spain’s houses of parliament.
Defense lawyers argue that Article 753 of the Criminal Procedure Law sets out the suspension of any judicial process
The five men have now requested that they be released from custody, so that they can fulfill their roles as parliamentarians – Romeva in the Senate, and the rest in Congress. In a petition presented on Wednesday, their lawyers have called on the Supreme Court to request authorization from Spain’s houses of parliament to continue with the judicial proceedings, given their new roles and the immunity from prosecution that accompanies them. They also called for them to be released from custody in order to “fully exercise the responsibilities that come with their new status.”
The defense lawyers are basing this petition on Article 71.2 of the Constitution, which establishes that deputies and senators will enjoy “immunity and can only be arrested in the case of a flagrant offense. They cannot be defendants nor prosecuted without the prior authorization of the respective house.” The lawyers argue that the pro-independence leaders start to enjoy this immunity from the moment that they are proclaimed deputies-elect – i.e. before they officially take their seats and parliament is convened.
The houses of parliament will be convened on May 21, and according to procedure, parliamentarians will have to be physically present that day
Legal sources, meanwhile, believe that the Supreme Court does not need to request permission from parliament to continue with the trial, given that the trial of the men began before they were elected as parliamentarians. But the defense lawyers argue that Article 753 of the Criminal Procedure Law sets out the suspension of any judicial process ahead of a decision on whether or not immunity should be waived.
The houses of parliament will be convened on May 21, and according to procedure, parliamentarians will have to be physically present that day. The Supreme Court is not planning to veto the attendance of the defendants in question, and has left the trial schedule clear that day. But the defense lawyers argue that the parliamentarians will not be able to fulfill their roles while they are being held in custody, hence the request for them to be freed.
English version by Simon Hunter.