Group of MEPs travel to Catalonia to visit Junqueras in prison
Irish member says it's "madness" that former president Puigdemont was unable to accompany them for fear of arrest
A dozen MEPs from leftwing parties visited the Catalan independence leaders in the Lledoners prison on Thursday evening, regretting the fact that they had to greet their colleague, Oriol Junqueras, while he is in jail.
Irish member, Clare Daly, from the GUE/NGL group, said the MEPs had hoped that "we would have the privilege of meeting our colleague, Oriol Junqueras, in Brussels. That we had to travel here to see him in a prison, I find quite shocking."
In December, the European Court of Justice ruled that Junqueras, who is serving 13 years for the 2017 independence bid, should have immunity as an MEP. Yet, when Spain's Supreme Court upheld his conviction, the EU parliament removed his member status.
However, the former Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and former minister, Toni Comín, were allowed to take up their seats as MEPs, as they are in exile in Belgium and were never tried and convicted by the Supreme Court.
In fact, Puigdemont had wanted to accompany the group of MEPs to Catalonia to also see his former vice president, but in the end was unable to risk the trip for fear of being arrested by the Spanish authorities, who are trying to extradite him from Belgium.
"It's absolute madness, he has immunity everywhere in Europe, yet he cannot come to Spain because the Spanish judiciary has said it's not possible. That's outrageous to the people who voted for him and to all citizens of the European Union," said Daly.
Corsican MEP François Alfonsi criticized Junqueras' imprisonment and said it was "scandalous" that Spanish courts were not aligned with European ones who declared on December 19 that he was an MEP from the moment he was elected in May, although the European Parliament then announced that he had been stripped this status on January 10.
The MEPs also stated that they hoped the bilateral negotiation table that will be established between the Spanish and Catalan governments to discuss the independence conflict helps bring about solutions.
The delegation plans to visit former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, who is detained at the Mas d'Enric prison, on Friday as well as to meet with Catalan president Quim Torra and foreign minister Alfred Bosch.