Jailed Catalan Leader Loses Bid to Temporarily Join Parliament

(CN) — Elected to European Parliament from behind Spanish bars, the Catalan separatist leader Oriol Junqueras implored the General Court in Luxembourg to grant interim relief.

Rejecting that bid on Tuesday, the vice president of the court said a ruling for Junqueras would intrude Parliament’s role to enforce judgments.

Catalan regional Vice-President, Oriol Junqueras, center, next to Catalan former Cabinet member Raul Romeva, left, during the trial at the Spanish Supreme Court in Madrid on Feb. 12, 2019. Spain is bracing for the nation’s most sensitive trial in four decades of democracy this week, with a dozen Catalan separatists facing charges including rebellion over a failed secession bid in 2017. (J.J. Guillen/Pool via AP)

Though sentenced only this past October to 13 years in prison, Junqueras has been locked up in Spain since November 2017 over an independence referendum mounted by leaders of the Catalan government.

Junqueras, who was that government’s vice president, was incarcerated when he won election to European Parliament in May 2019. With Spain refusing to let Junqueras out so that he could take his oath of office, the nation’s Central Electoral Commission declared Junqueras’ seat vacant the following month.

European Parliament held subsequently its first session on July 2, 2019. As Junqueras fights to annul the judgment over his seat, he asked that the General Court make Spain set him free.

A press release out of Luxembourg called this request inadmissible.

“The Vice-President of the General Court states that, as a general rule, a judge hearing an application for interim measures cannot issue directions to entities which, like the Spanish authorities in this case, are not parties to the proceedings,” it states.

Junqueras failed as well Tuesday to have the court suspend the declaration that his seat was vacant from Jan. 13, 2020.

“The Parliament does not … have the power to call into question the regularity of the seat becoming vacant as a result of the withdrawal of the mandate since it is merely informed of that situation, which arises exclusively out of a decision of the competent national authorities,” the VP of the General Court wrote.

In declaring Junqueras’ seat vacant, Parliament “had no power to review the regularity of the national procedure that led to the withdrawal of his mandate and therefore to his seat becoming vacant,” the order concludes.

Junqueras has sought urgent measures to protect his parliamentary immunity, a request that Parliament does not appear to have acted on, according to Tuesday’s order.

Spain’s Central Electoral Commission kicked off 2020 with a ruling that Junqueras’ imprisonment makes him ineligible to hold office. Junqueras fought to suspend the enforcement of that decision, but the Tribunal Supremo ruled against him.

“The Tribunal Supremo observed that, when Mr. Junqueras i Vies had been declared elected, the criminal proceedings brought against him were concluding and the court was considering its verdict,” the Luxembourg-based court VP summarized Tuesday. “Accordingly, since Mr. Junqueras i Vies had acquired the status of Member of the European Parliament when those proceedings had already reached the trial phase, he could not rely on any immunity to impede the continuation of that trial.”

%d bloggers like this: