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Decision to bar jailed Catalan MPs from congress splits political opinion

With pro-independence parties to petition parliamentary bureau to reconsider, unionist leaders welcome ban and vow to "remain vigilant"



24 May 2019 05:23 PM


ACN | Barcelona

The decision by the bureau of the Spanish congress on Friday to suspend the four jailed Catalan leaders who became Spanish MPs after the April 28 general election provoked plenty of reaction in political circles.

Oriol Junqueras, one of the MPs suspended and the head of the pro-independence Esquerra party (ERC), responded by pointing to Sunday's European election, in which he is standing as a candidate for a seat in Brussels.

"They have suspended us in Spain, but they won't be able to do it in Europe," said the former Catalan vice president, who added that "a political prisoner entering the European Parliament is the best way to denounce Spain's repression."

In fact, sources in Junqueras' party announced later on Friday that ERC intends to officially petition the congress bureau to reconsider its decision to suspend the MPs on the grounds that they are on trial for rebellion in the Supreme Court.

The other pro-independence party affected by the ban, Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), which saw three of its MPs barred, also said it will call on the bureau to reconsider, describing the suspension as a "blow to the rule of law."

  • "A political prisoner entering the European Parliament is the best way to denounce Spain's repression"

    Oriol Junqueras · Esquerra's leader

One of the suspended JxCat MPs, Jordi Sànchez, reacted to the news, saying: "Denying the presumption of innocence does not solve anything. From prison and as effective MP I continue to call for dialogue and democracy."

"Attack on the will of the Catalan people," says president

Meanwhile, for Catalan president Quim Torra, the suspension of the MPs "is yet another attack on the democratic will of the Catalan people and the rights of the political prisoners. The state's response to how its citizens voted is unacceptable," he said.

The members of the bureau from the leftwing Podemos party were the only ones to vote against the ban, with the body's first secretary, Gerardo Pisarello, criticising the "hastiness" of the decision, which he argued should have been put before the congress chamber.

His party colleague and mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, was also critical of the bureau's decision, saying: "It is incomprehensible that the political prisoners, democratically elected as MPs, have been suspended by the congress bureau."

"We will let nothing get by"

However, the unionist parties welcomed the decision, with the conservative People's Party (PP) leader, Pablo Casado, claiming credit for the suspension of the jailed MPs. "The rule of law always prevails. We will let nothing get by," he said.

Along with the bureau's PP members, the Ciudadanos party (Cs) also voted for the suspension, and its leader, Albert Rivera, pledged to "remain vigilant throughout the parliamentary term to ensure separatist parties receive no favors."