HomeWorldEU Parliament: Carles Puigdemont's immunity lifted | Free press

EU Parliament: Carles Puigdemont’s immunity lifted | Free press

Brussels (AP) – The European Parliament has decided to waive the immunity of former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont. Parliament approved by a clear majority a request from the Spanish authorities against the MEP in Brussels.

It thus paved the way for the continuation of criminal proceedings against the separatists. An early extradition to Spain is considered unlikely. The former president of the autonomous government of Catalonia was elected to the European Parliament in 2019. The 58-year-old lives in Belgium.

At the same time, a Spanish court deprived seven separatist leaders who had not gone abroad and who had been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in 2019 from the right to open execution. They had not sat long enough and had no regrets, it was said to be justified. It is the second time that the release granted by the Catalan judiciary has been revoked by a higher authority.

The EU Parliament also voted to waive the immunity of the other two Catalan MPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí. There was a majority of about 400 MPs. Nearly 250 MPs voted against, more than 40 abstained.

Puigdemont was pugnacious. “It is a sad day for the EU Parliament. We have lost our immunity, but the European Parliament has lost more than that, and so has European democracy, ”he said in Brussels. Puigdemont spoke of a “clear case of political persecution”. He also announced that he would be going to the EU Court of Justice.

Following the banned independence referendum in Catalonia in October 2017, several high-ranking politicians in the region, including Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí, fled abroad. Puigdemont has been chairman of the autonomous government since 2016. Comín and Ponsatí were temporary cabinet members.

There are also European arrest warrants against the three MEPs. Spain accuses them of rebellion, among other things. Belgium refused to extradite Puigdemont and Comín last year and suspended the execution of the arrest warrant in view of the immunity of members of parliament. Ponsatí lives in Scotland. So far requests for extradition from Spain have been denied in Germany, Belgium and Scotland – including in January in the case of former Catalan minister Lluís Puig, who had no immunity.

The vote in the EU parliament caused a new dispute within the governing coalition of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. While EU parliamentarians from his socialist PSOE party voted in favor of the repeal, members of left-wing alternative junior partner Unidas Podemos (UP) voted against it. For Sánchez, Puigdemont and the other two Catalans are on the run from justice, but for UP boss Pablo Iglesias, politicians in exile, the newspaper wrote «El País». UP has repeatedly stressed that the conflict with the Catalan separatists cannot be resolved through the judiciary, but only through dialogue.

Despite the coalition dispute, Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya, close to the PSOE, said the government welcomed the EU parliament’s decision. Parliamentary immunity should not be used to circumvent justice. The MEPs’ decision strengthens the rule of law and the judicial system in Spain. Moreover, it is clear that Catalonia’s problems cannot be solved in Europe, but only in Spain.

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