29th Sep 2023

EU court upholds decision to strip Catalan MEPs' immunity

  • The decision is expected to be appealed before the European Court of Justice within the next two months (Photo: European Parliament)
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The EU General Court on Wednesday (5 July) upheld the decision of the European Parliament to waive the parliamentary immunity of three Catalan separatist MEPs — Carles Puigdemont, Antoni Comín and Clara Ponsatí.

In 2019, nine Catalan leaders in total were sentenced by Spain's top court to nine to 13 years in prison for sedition and the misuse of public funds, over their role in the 2017 failed referendum on independence for Catalonia.

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Puigdemont and Comín then took their seats in the EU Parliament in January 2020.

At that point, the parliament said Puigdemont, Comín and Oriol Junqueras enjoyed immunity as MEPs as of 2 July 2019, when their mandate started on the basis of the official declaration of the results of the elections by the competent Spanish authorities — and in line with the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ).

In 2020, the parliament announced that it had received a petition from Spain's Supreme Court to waive the immunity of both Catalan MEPs. And in 2021, it was lifted.

The Luxembourg court's ruling confirms that suspension of their immunity, on the grounds that the facts for which they are being tried predate their parliamentary immunity.

But it does not put an end to the process.

The current general court decision is expected to be appealed before the European Court of Justice within the next two months — confirmed by the former head of the regional Catalan government Puigdemont during a press conference held in parliament.

After those two months, the EU court of justice will have another six months to come to a decision, which the Catalan MEPs said they expect to be "favourable".

"The EU Court's decision confirms what we already knew, that the process of lifting immunity was flawless and carried out with all guarantees," said Adrián Vázquez Lara, chair of the parliament's legal affairs committee (JURI), which was in charge of handling the request to waive MEPs' immunity.

"Today political dissent is more threatened in Europe," said Puigdemont after the court announced their decision.

Under an arrest warrant against Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí — issued by the investigating judge of the Spanish Supreme Court — Puigdemont was arrested in Germany in 2018 and at an airport in Sardinia in 2021.

Also, last year, Ponsatí was detained for hours by the police after returning to Barcelona following five years of exile.

Now the judge could reactivate the arrest warrant — but only after a new request.

After Wednesday's decision, Puigdemont sees his return to Spain "just as close and just as far away" as before.

The MEP said they will defend their position of what they see as political prosecution to the bitter end. "This has no place in Europe. We believed it and we still believe it," he said. "I will not stop insisting on this path and insisting on my rights, because they are collective rights".

In 2021, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez granted a pardon to the Catalan separatist leaders convicted.

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