The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg has ruled that the jailed former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras has immunity after being elected as an MEP back in May.
The ruling was made public on Thursday morning, after the EU’s top judges decided that Junqueras had immunity from the moment he was elected as an MEP on 26 May – and thus, he should have been free to take up his seat following the election.
At that time, he was still in custody for the Catalan independence trial – and the CJEU claims that if Spain’s judiciary wanted to keep him behind bars, they should have asked the European Parliament for permission, which did not happen.
This ruling follows on from earlier statements by Maciej Szpunar, the Advocate General of the CJEU, that Junqueras, should have been allowed to take up his position as an MEP.
‘MEPs’ parliamentary mandate is acquired solely from the electorate and is not conditional on the completion of any subsequent formality’ – and therefore that Junqueras should have been considered an MEP after the EU elections in May, stated Szpunar.
Thursday’s EU court ruling comes with Junqueras already serving a prison sentence and with him barred from public office. It is uncertain whether the Spanish judiciary will take any step after Luxembourg decision.
The EU Court of Justice’s full statement says that ‘a person elected to the European Parliament acquires the status of MEP at the time of the official declaration of the results and enjoys, from the time, the immunities attached to that status’.
#ECJ: a person elected to the #EP acquires the status of MEP at the time of the official declaration of the results and enjoys, form that time, the immunities attached to that status + EMBEDED PRESS RELEASE #Junqueras @junqueras
— EU Court of Justice (@EUCourtPress) December 19, 2019
The ruling states that ‘the status of Member of the European Parliament arises solely from the election of the person concerned and is acquired by virtue of the official declaration of those results by the Member States.’
It goes on to say that ‘persons who, like Mr Junqueras Vies, have been elected Members of the European Parliament enjoy, from the moment the results are declared, the immunity as regards travel which is attached to their status as Member and provided for in the second paragraph of Article 9 of the Protocol.’
It also states that ‘the immunity as regards travel granted to every Member of the European Parliament entails lifting any measure of provisional detention imposed prior to the declaration of that Member’s election, in order to allow that person to travel to and take part in the inaugural session of the European Parliament. Consequently, if the competent national court considers that the measure should be maintained, it must as soon as possible request the European Parliament to waive that immunity.’
The former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, as well as the Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party, of which Oriol Junqueras is the leader, have already called for his immediate release.
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