A Catalan politician who was elected as an MEP despite being in prison for his part in organising the illegal independence referendum in 2017 will not now be allowed to take his seat in Brussels, European Parliament president, David Sassoli, announced on Friday.
“The mandate of Mr [Oriol] Junqueras ended with effect on January 3, 2020,” Sassoli wrote in a press release, referring to the date on which the Spanish Central Election Commission withdrew Mr Junqueras’ mandate, a decision which was later confirmed by the Supreme Court in Madrid.
The Spanish high court ruled that the sentencing of Mr Junqueras in October to thirteen years in prison for sedition and embezzlement made him ineligible to take up his seat as an MEP.
This contradicted a previous ruling by the EU Court of Justice which found that once he had been elected as an MEP, Junqueras should have received political immunity and been released from prison to take his seat in Brussels.
In the resulting contretemps between the CJEU and the Spanish High Court, the EP president, David Sassoli, has apparently sided with the latter, by revoking Junqueras’ mandate.
In a press release, Mr Sassoli noted that the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU confirms the mandates of Mr. Junqueras, as well as those of former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and former minister Toni Comin as of as starting on July 2, 2019, “on the basis of the official declaration of the results of the elections by the competent Spanish authorities.”
“However, taking into account the decision of the Junta Electoral Central of January 3, 2020 and in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court of January 9, 2020, Mr. Junqueras’ mandate ended with effect on January 3, 2020.”
Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin, both of whom played leading roles in organising the illegal referendum before fleeing to Brussels to avoid Spanish legal proceedings, were also elected MEPs on May 26. They, however, will be allowed to assume their seats when the Parliament assembles next week.
It remains to be seen, though, how long the two men will be allowed to stay on as MEPs – Madrid announced on Friday that it was launching a procedure to have their immunity lifted too, so they can be brought back to Spain and put on trial.