On the eve of the EU elections and municipal elections in Spain, the decision by the committee of the Spanish Congress on Friday to suspend the four jailed Catalan leaders who became Spanish MPs after the 28 April General Election has provoked plenty of reaction in political circles.
Oriol Junqueras, one of the MPs suspended and the head of the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party, responded by pointing to this Sunday’s European Parliament elections, in which he is standing as a candidate for a seat in Brussels.
‘They have suspended us in Spain, but they won’t be able to do it in Europe,’ said the former Catalan vice president, who added that ‘a political prisoner entering the European Parliament is the best way to denounce Spain’s repression.’
In fact, sources in Junqueras’ party announced later on Friday that ERC intends to officially petition the congress bureau to reconsider its decision to suspend the MPs on the grounds that they are on trial for rebellion in the Supreme Court.
The other pro-independence party affected by the ban, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), which saw three of its MPs barred, also said it will call on the Spanish Congress committee to reconsider, describing the suspension as a ‘blow to the rule of law’.
One of the suspended JxCat MPs, Jordi Sànchez, reacted to the news, saying: ‘Denying the presumption of innocence does not solve anything. From prison and as effective MP I continue to call for dialogue and democracy.’
Catalan president Quim Torra said the suspension of the MPs ‘another attack on the democratic will of the Catalan people and the rights of the political prisoners. The state’s response to how its citizens voted is unacceptable.’
The members of the Spanish Congress committee from the left-wing Podemos party were the only ones to vote against the ban, with the party’s first secretary, Gerardo Pisarello, criticising the ‘hastiness’ of the decision, which he argued should have been put before the congress chamber.
His party colleague and mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, was also critical of the committee’s decision, saying: ‘It is incomprehensible that the political prisoners, democratically elected as MPs, have been suspended by the congress bureau.’
However, the Spain’s unionist parties welcomed the decision, with the right-wing People’s Party (PP) leader, Pablo Casado, claiming credit for the suspension of the jailed MPs. ‘The rule of law always prevails. We will let nothing get by,’ he said.
Along with the commitee’s PP members, the Ciudadanos (Cs) party also voted for the suspension, and its leader, Albert Rivera, pledged to ‘remain vigilant throughout the parliamentary term to ensure separatist parties receive no favours.’