Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, together with two of his former ministers, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, have again lost their parliamentary immunity after the European Court of Justice rejected a provisional ruling that had restored those privileges in early June.
Puigdemont and a number of his colleagues moved to Belgium in October 2017 – in their own words ‘to seek justice and not flee from it’ – after fearing arrest in Spain for holding an independence referendum for Catalonia in 2017 that the Spanish government under Mariano Rajoy deemed illegal.
Puigdemont and Comín, who are in self-imposed exile in Belgium, formally became members of the EU Parliament in June 2019. Ponsatí, who officially resides in Scotland, became an MEP from January 2020.
Nine Catalan politicians and activists were eventually jailed for between 9-13 years by the Spanish Supreme Court on 14 October 2019, convicted for crimes of sedition and misuse of funds for their roles in the 1 October 2017 referendum, yet not for an earlier charge of rebellion. They had been found guilty following the high-profile Catalan Trial – with the verdicts causing widespread protests across Catalonia.
Last month those nine Catalan leaders and activists walked free from prison, following the pardons granted by the PSOE–Podemos coalition government led by Pedro Sánchez.
Puigdemont and his two colleagues were stripped of their parliamentary rights in March after a majority of MEPs in the chamber voted in favour of doing so, before then having them restored by a provisional Court of Justice ruling in June.
Spain has attempted to have the former officials of the Catalan government extradited numerous times to try them for the 2017 independence push, but have so far failed to do so.
The EU Court has now withdrawn the immunity of the Catalan politicians because it believes they have not ‘proven with a sufficient degree of probability’ that ‘they could be subject to imminent arrest’. In addition, the Luxembourg court says that Puigdemont, Comín, and Ponsatí maintain parliamentary protection in order to go to the plenary sessions of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The rejection of the precautionary measures is part of a lawsuit filed against the European Parliament for the suspension of immunity in March. All three allege irregularities during the request of the Spanish Supreme Court to reactivate their arrest warrants.
The EU Court has said it will analyse the merits of the lawsuit in the coming months, but in the meantime all three will be left without immunity.
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