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The European Parliament lifts the immunity of the former President of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont




Carles Puigdemont has been in exile in Brussels since October 2017 (photo: Generalitat de Catalunya)
Carles Puigdemont has been in exile in Brussels since October 2017 (photo: Generalitat de Catalunya)
SPAIN. Carles Puigdemont is no longer protected by his European parliamentary immunity, which has just been lifted, at the request of the Spanish government, on Tuesday 9 March 2021, by the European Parliament. The previous evening, 400 MEPs voted in favour, 248 against and 45 abstained. Two other Catalan MEPs also suffered the same fate: Clara Ponsati and Toni Comin.

After the attempted secession of the Catalan region in October 2017, accepted by referendum (banned by the central government and ruled illegal by the Spanish Constitutional Court) and followed by the promulgation of a Republic by the Generalitat de Catalunya, Madrid placed the regional government under trusteeship . Its former president then took refuge in Brussels, with several of his ministers, to avoid appearing before the Spanish courts. Remaining in Barcelona, nine of his former allies were heavily sentenced and have been in prison since October 2019 with sentences ranging from nine to thirteen years. Carles Puigdemont had been sentenced to thirty years in prison.

Subject to an arrest warrant issued by Madrid for "sedition" and "misappropriation of public funds", Carles Puigdemont had been a member of the European Parliament since his election in 2019.

Carles Puigdemont speaks of "political persecution"

MEPs overwhelmingly voted to lift immunity (photo: European Parliament)
MEPs overwhelmingly voted to lift immunity (photo: European Parliament)
The long-awaited news has satisfied Arancha González Laya. According to the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, the European Parliament recognises that "Catalonia's problems are solved in Spain, they are not solved in Europe", while at the same time emphasising "this is the line taken by the Spanish government, that of reaching out to Catalan political forces to find a solution through dialogue and negotiation".

For her part, Carles Puigdemont denounced "a clear case of political persecution". He did not hesitate to launch, in a press conference, "we have lost our immunity, but the European Parliament has lost much more: European democracy".

It is now up to the Spanish judiciary to reactivate the European arrest warrant against the three independence fighters. Meanwhile, they can theoretically continue to sit in the European Parliament. However, they should avoid sessions in Strasbourg, the seat of the institution. France has a simplified extradition agreement with Spain, unlike Belgium.

Meanwhile, in Catalonia, the independentists still occupy the top of the pavement despite divisions. In February 2021, they strengthened their majority in the regional parliament in early elections.

 

Eric Apim


Tuesday, March 9th 2021



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