Spain’s Attorney General office has issued its recommendation to the Supreme Court that jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras should be allowed out of prison in order to collect his credentials as an MEP.
This follows the ruling on 19 December by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg that the former Catalan vice-president Junqueras had immunity after being elected as an MEP on 26 May – and that 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.
On 14 October the Spanish Supreme Court finally found Junqueras guilty of sedition and the misuse of public funds, and sentenced him to 13 years in prison.
In the CJEU’s ruling of 19 December, it was stated that if the Spanish courts ‘consider it necessary to maintain the measure of preventive prison’ against Junqueras, then it should request ‘at the earliest opportunity’ that the European Parliament suspend his immunity.
On Monday the Attorney General’s office released a statement recommending that Junqueras should be released in order to be allowed to travel to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to collect his credentials. He would then need to return to prison.
The Attorney General’s office is also calling on the Spanish courts to request the suspension of Junqueras’s immunity ‘as soon as possible’ with the European Parliament. It has been reported in the Spanish media that Junqueras could be freed until such time as the immunity is suspended.
The issue comes at a critical time in Spanish politics, with Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s socialist (PSOE) acting prime minister, still hoping to be sworn in as leader of a new coalition government before the Three Kings holiday (Epiphany) of 6 January. However, the PSOE requires the support of of the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana (ERC) party, of which Oriol Junqueras is the leader .
The PSOE’s 120 seats from the 10 November general election combined with the 35 won by the left-wing Podemos party – and with whom they have already signed a pre-agreement to form a coalition government – has left them short of the majority in the 350-seat Spanish Congress. The re-election of Sánchez as prime minister is therefore in the hands of ERC’s 13 MPs, as well as other smaller political groups.