Puigdemont rejects Spain's request to waive his immunity in EU parliament hearing

Supreme Court seeks extradition of former president and ministers for 2017 referendum

MEPs Toni Comín, Carles Puigdemont, and Clara Ponsatí on February 10, 2020 (by Natàlia Segura)
MEPs Toni Comín, Carles Puigdemont, and Clara Ponsatí on February 10, 2020 (by Natàlia Segura) / ACN

ACN | Brussels

January 14, 2021 07:52 PM

Days after a Belgian court rejected extraditing former Catalan minister Lluís Puig, the Spanish Supreme Court's quest to try all of the organizers of the 2017 independence referendum continues—this time with ex-president Carles Puigdemont and ministers Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, all three of whom are currently MEPs.

The Junts per Catalunya (JxCat) politicians and their lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, attended a hearing at the European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs on Thursday to argue against the court's motion to waive their political immunity, the approval of which is necessary for Spain's extradition attempt to move forward. These proceedings took place behind closed doors almost a year after the Supreme Court's initial request.

JxCat sources believe Belgium's recent ruling on Puig will "strengthen" their case as it raised concerns that his "presumption of innocence was at risk" in Spain. Indeed, the party sent all MEPs a letter earlier this week alerting them of the Belgian court's findings.

Besides citing Puig's case, Puigdemont, Comín, and Ponsatí are expected to argue the Supreme Court's attempt to try them for the events of 2017 constitutes "political persecution", that the court does not have the authority to do so, and that the court's request to waive their immunity contains procedural "irregularities".

The next step will be for the committee to side in favor or against lifting the politicians' immunity in a report written by its ultra-conservative Bulgarian rapporteur, Angel Dzhambazki. After the committee votes on his report, the EU parliament will vote on each politicians' case in the next plenary session.

Yet, even if the Catalan pro-independence politicians were stripped of their immunity, they would still retain their status as MEPs until a potential conviction barring them from office, even if Belgium, or Scotland in the case of Ponsatí, decided to hand them over to Spain. 

And, as Lluís Puig's case demonstrates, not having political immunity does not automatically guarantee these politicians will be extradited.