Puigdemont’s defense ‘very calm’ as European parliament debates on his immunity

Spain has repeatedly tried to get former Catalan president and other exiled pro-independence politicians extradited

Carles Puigdemont at a rally in front of the European Parliament on October 1, 2020 (by Nazaret Romero)
Carles Puigdemont at a rally in front of the European Parliament on October 1, 2020 (by Nazaret Romero) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 16, 2020 11:35 AM

Carles Puigdemont’s defense team said they were "very calm" as the procedure to decide whether or not to waive the former Catalan president's immunity in the European parliament began on Monday.

The investigation comes at the request of Spanish authorities, who want Puigdemont, along with fellow exiled MEPs Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, extradited to Spain for their roles in the 2017 independence push.

The European Parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs will discuss the case of the three pro-independence MEPs for the first time, restarting proceedings that have been on hold for months.

Monday's meeting will be held remotely, after the rule for it to be held in person was eased due to the coronavirus pandemic, despite concerns over confidentiality from lawyers representing the pro-independence MEPs.

The head of the committee, the ultra-conservative Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki, will present the case, which will then be discussed by the MEPs who make up the committee.

Only the committee chairperson, Adrián Vázquez, from the unionist Ciudadanos party, will be able to attend the session in person.

Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí will not participate in this first meeting; they will be summoned for a hearing at a later date.

Continued role as MEPs even if extradited

In the event any of the leaders of the 2017 independence referendum loses their parliamentary immunity, the Spanish judiciary would be able to proceed with their extradition cases – but they would still be MEPs.

Even if Belgium or Scotland (in Ponsatí's case) agreed to hand them in, they would still keep their MEP seats until a potential conviction barring them from office.

Yet, it is not clear whether having their immunity lifted would lead to their extradition. Especially since a Belgian court recently rejected sending another exiled leader, Lluís Puig, back to Spain after arguing that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to issue a European arrest warrant against him.