CATALAN INDEPENDENCE DRIVE

Solicitor general’s office calls for jailed Catalan politician to be allowed to serve as MEP

The legal representation of the Spanish state has, however, stated that the immunity granted to Oriol Junqueras by the European Parliament should be suspended as soon as possible

Spain’s solicitor general’s office on Monday called on the Supreme Court to allow jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras to travel to Brussels to be sworn in as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). The call comes in the wake of a ruling from the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) that found that Junqueras technically became an MEP as soon as he was elected in the polls held this spring, and that as such, he enjoyed parliamentary immunity from that moment on.

Junqueras won a seat in the European Parliament in the May 26 vote, but was unable to be sworn in because he was in preventive custody in Soto del Real prison in Madrid ahead of the conclusion of the trial for his role in the 2017 Catalan independence drive. In October, the Spanish Supreme Court found the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) leader guilty of sedition and misuse of public funds, and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.

The solicitor general’s office is not requesting that Junqueras be released, but rather that he travel to Brussels with an escort

But according to the CJEU, Junqueras was protected by parliamentary immunity the moment he was elected in May. In its ruling, the CJEU said that if the Spanish courts “consider it necessary to maintain the measure of provisional prison” against Junqueras it must request “at the earliest opportunity” that the European Parliament suspend his immunity.

The solicitor general’s office – which represented the Spanish state in the Supreme Court trial of the pro-independence leaders – was today responding to a request by the top court from all the parties involved in the trial for a brief including a response to the CJEU ruling. The court is considering whether or not Junqueras should be released from jail in order to comply with the CJEU ruling.

According to a statement released by the Justice Ministry, the solicitor general’s office has also called on the Supreme Court to allow Junqueras to serve in office while he is an MEP, in accordance with the CJEU ruling of December 19.

The solicitor general’s office is not requesting that Junqueras be released, but rather that he travel to Brussels with an escort, and later return to prison. The office is also calling on the Spanish magistrates to request the suspension of Junqueras’s immunity “as soon as possible” with the European Parliament.

Former Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont, who was ousted from power in the wake of the 2017 illegal independence referendum in the region and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence, received the news of the CJEU ruling with jubilation earlier this month. Puigdemont, who fled Spain in 2017 to avoid arrest and trial, and has since been living in Belgium, traveled on December 20 with his one-time colleague in government Toni Comín to the European Parliament to collect their accreditation as Members of the European Parliament-elect.

English version by Simon Hunter.