Euro Parliament withdraws immunity from Junqueras

Oriol Junqueras in Spain's national Congress on opening day of XIII Legislature, May 2019. Photo: Europa Press via Público
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The European Parliament announced on Friday that it was reversing its decision to decision to recognize jailed Catalan separatist leader Oriol Junqueras as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) on the advice of its legal office, having studied a ruling on the matter sent to the parliament on Thursday by the Spanish Supreme Court.

Earlier this month, the parliament had recognized Junqueras as an elected member of the European Parliament (MEP) as a result of a 19th December ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). That ruling said that Junqueras enjoyed parliamentary immunity from the date in June that results were announced confirming his election as an MEP representing voters in Spain in May’s European parliamentary elections.

The ECJ ruling also said that because of that immunity, Junqueras should have been released from preventive detention by Spain’s Supreme Court so that he could pick up his MEP credential. The Spanish Supreme Court refused to allow him to do so at the time.

Unable to itself dictate a remedy for the situation, the ECJ left resolution of the matter to the Spanish Supreme Court. The magistrates issued their finding on Thursday, saying that because Junqueras has since been convicted, sentenced and is now serving jail time for crimes related to Catalonia’s 2017 unconstitutional referendum on independence from Spain, he is currently not eligible under Spanish electoral legislation to hold elective office, whether in Spain or representing Spain at the European level.

► News Sources: La Vanguardia, El Diario and Público …

That, said the Supreme Court, makes the ECJ ruling as to Junqueras’ immunity back in June a moot point, though the court also argued that because the oral phase of Junqueras’ trial had ended a day before the European parliamentary election results were announced, his continued preventive custody while awaiting sentencing was nevertheless warranted because of suspected risk of flight to avoid final sentencing.

On Friday, the legal office of the European Parliament concurred with the Spanish judges’ reasoning and EP President David Sassoli announced late in the day that Junqueras’ parliamentary immunity was no longer in effect and that he would not be seated in the opening session of parliament. His place an an MEP is to be taken by the next candidate on the list of his ERC party in the May elections.

The ERC and lawyers for Junqueras said immediately they would take the EP decision to the Luxembourg-based General Court of the European Union, which is the appeals court within the ECJ court system.

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