Court bars jailed leader Junqueras from taking up seat as MEP in Madrid

Same judges gave Esquerra leader permission to attend congress to become Spanish MP last month

Oriol Junqueras takes his seat in Spain's Congress
Oriol Junqueras takes his seat in Spain's Congress / Daniel Wittenberg

ACN | Madrid

June 14, 2019 11:40 AM

Spain's Supreme Court has denied the jailed pro-independence leader Oriol Junqueras permission to leave prison in order to take the necessary steps in Madrid that will allow him to take up his seat as an MEP.

All MEP-elects have to attend Spain's congress on June 17 in order to swear an oath to the constitution, a mandatory step to be able to officially become a member of the EU parliament.

Yet on Friday morning, the Supreme Court refused to allow Junqueras out of jail to attend the event.

Last month, the same judges gave Junqueras temporary permission to leave prison so that he could become an MP in Spain's congress – he attended the chamber's opening session of the term on May 21.

Arguments for veto

The Supreme Court now argues that allowing Junqueras to become an MEP, and therefore leave the country to attend the EU parliament in Brussels, would pose an "irreversible danger" for the proceedings against him, with a verdict still pending.

The judges point out that this would mean "losing jurisdictional control" over the defendant – and they see a special risk in the fact that his former government colleague, Carles Puigdemont, lives in the Belgian capital.

"[Puigdemont] says he has established the seat of the Catalan republic in exile there, whose presidency he would embody," reads the decision.

Yet the judges also point out that the decision does not imply Junqueras losing his right to become an MEP for the whole term. They suggest that if his potential sentence does not include being barred from public office, he could still become an MEP afterwards.

Puigdemont: "shameful and an injustice"

One of the first reactions to the decision of the judges came from Puigdemont himself, who on Twitter called it "shameful and an injustice."

The former president also claimed the decision "is a brazen demonstration of the arbitrariness and manipulation of the judiciary with the aim of altering the election results."

For Puigdemont, who also won a seat in the EU parliament, Junqueras gained his seat as an MEP "through the votes of citizens," whose rights "cannot be violated."

Meanwhile, Diana Riba, the wife of jailed leader Raül Romeva and an MEP-elect for Junqueras' party, tweeted her reaction, also calling the decision an "injustice."

"Once again, the injustice of the Spanish judiciary is confirmed. It is the shameful arbitrariness of a system at the service of the state's interests," she wrote.

Junqueras' Esquerra party spokesperson also reacted soon after knowing about the court decision. "It is a new attack on democracy. They gloss over electoral results and, therefore, mess with the votes of many citizens," said also MP Sergi Sabrià.

European reactions

News of Junqueras being barred from taking his seat has also been picked up on abroad. Ska Keller, the European Green Party's co-president criticized the Supreme Court's decision, tweeting that "his political rights, and the right of his voters to be represented by him, should not be taken away!"