European Union Parliament: Carles Puigdemont’s immunity removed

European Union Parliament: Carles Puigdemont's immunity removed

Not a good day for Catalonia’s separatists. Three leaders who fled abroad, including former Prime Minister Puigdemont, lose their immunity as MEPs.

Brussels (AP) – The European Parliament has decided to increase the immunity of former Catalan Prime Minister Carles Puigdemont. The parliament approved a request from Spanish officials against Brussels with a clear majority against the MEP.

Thus it paved the way for the continuation of criminal proceedings against the separatists. An initial extradition to Spain is unlikely. The former president of Catalonia’s autonomous government 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 were sentenced to long prison terms in 2019, the right to be hanged. They did not sit for long and did not regret anything, it was said to be justified. This is the second time the release granted by the Catalan judiciary has been withdrawn by the higher official.

The European Union’s parliament also voted to increase the immunity of two other Catalan MPs Tony Komin and Clara Ponsetti. The parliament had a majority of about 400 members. About 250 MPs voted, more than 40 captured.

Puigdemont was combative. «It is a sad day for the Parliament of the European Union. We have lost our immunity, but the European Parliament has lost much more and, as a result, there is also European democracy, ”he said in Brussels. Puigdemont spoke of a “clear case of political persecution”. He also announced that he would go to the Court of the European Union.

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Following the banned independence referendum in Catalonia in October 2017, many high-ranking politicians from the region fled abroad, including Puigdemont, Comin and Ponsati. Puigdemont has been the President of the Autonomous Government since 2016. Comin and Ponsati were temporarily cabinet members.

There are also European arrest warrants against all three MPs. Spain accused him of, among other things, rebellion. Belgium denied extradition of Puigdemont and Komin last year and issued an arrest warrant, given the immunity of the MPs. Ponsatí lives in Scotland. Extradition requests from Spain to Germany, Belgium and Scotland have so far been rejected – even in January in the case of former Catalan minister Lulis Puig, who had no immunity.

The vote in the European Union parliament created a new controversy within the government coalition of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. While EU MPs from his Socialist PSOE party voted for the repeal, members of the leftist alternative junior partner Unidas Podemos (UP) voted against it. For Sánchez, Puigdemont and the other two Cattelans are fleeing justice, for UP boss Pablo Iglesias, however, politicians in exile, wrote the newspaper “El País”. The UP has repeatedly emphasized that conflicts with Catalan separatists can be resolved not only through the judiciary, but only through dialogue.

Despite the coalition dispute, PSOE’s close foreign minister Arancha Gonzalez Laia said the government had welcomed the decision of the European Union’s parliament. Parliamentary immunity should not be used to avoid justice. The decision of the MPs strengthens the rule of law and the judicial system in Spain. Furthermore, it is clear that the problems of Catalonia cannot be solved in Europe, but only in Spain.

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© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210309-99-746404 / 6

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