The European Parliament (EP) announced last week that it has begun proceedings that could result in the withdrawal of parliamentary immunity from Catalan separatist politicians Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín.
The announcement comes in response to a formal request from Spain’s Supreme Court that the parliamentary immunity accorded Puigdemont and Comín as members of the European Parliament (MEPs) be lifted in order to enable Spain to extradite them for trial on charges of sedition and misuse of public funds related to an unconstitutional independence referendum in Catalonia in October 2017.
Puigdemont was regional president of Catalonia at the time of the referendum and Comín was the Minister of Health in Puigdemont’s cabinet. Both fled Spain in November 2017 to avoid prosecution for their roles in organizing the illegal referendum and both were elected MEPs in May 2019 European parliamentary elections representing JxCAT (Junts per Catalunya).
Withdrawal of immunity from sitting MEPs is fairly commonplace, with the European Parliament having granted 51 of 56 requests last year from the judiciaries of EU members states to lift the immunity of MEPs so that they could be prosecuted by courts in their home countries on charges unrelated to their tenure as MEPs.
The process involves lengthy study and hearings conducted by the parliament’s Legal Affairs committee, which will ultimately submit a recommendation on whether or not to lift immunity prior to a full vote of the matter by all 751 members of the European Parliament.
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