Supreme Court to allow jailed MPs to take up seats but refuses their release

Trial unaffected as judges opt not to ask Spain's parliament for permission to continue proceedings

The prosecuted leaders Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, in the dock, on February 12, 2019
The prosecuted leaders Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, in the dock, on February 12, 2019 / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 14, 2019 02:09 PM

The Supreme Court will allow the five newly-elected Catalan MPs currently in preventative prison to swear in and attend the opening sessions of the new Spanish Congress and Senate on May 21.

Yet their request for release pending the verdict of the trial in order to begin work in Spain's Parliament was turned down by the judges in a ruling made public on Tuesday.

The defenses had appealed to the court to ask for parliamentary approval to carry on with the trial once they become elected representatives but this was also refused.

The elected politicians will be given the freedom of movement within the Spanish chamber, but police agents will be placed at the doors in order to prevent any prospective escape attempt.

Sources close to the Congress and Senate say that the imprisoned leaders will be brought into the chamber buildings via the underground carpark.

The law states that if the Supreme Court wants to try MPs or senators in the Spanish Parliament, the chamber in question must hold a vote on whether to give its consent. However, in this case, the judges have argued that it does not apply since the proceedings began before the defendants had been elected to national office in Madrid.

"Limited, minimal, and restrictive"

Lawyers of the elected Catalan officials lamented the decision today, saying that the court has chosen a “limited, minimal, and restrictive” interpretation of their rights.

The legal representatives of the five elected politicians said their clients will not be at the chambers “only as a formality and to take a picture," but to undertake their duties like the other elected MPs and senators, such as making statements to the media and joining meetings with parliamentary groups.

"Parliamentary immunity cannot be a privilege but a guarantee," said Andreu van den Eynde, the lawyer of Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva.

Five jailed leaders

The leader of left-wing party Esquerra and former Catalan vice-president, Oriol Junqueras, won a seat in Spain's Congress in the April 28 general election, as well as Junts per Catalunya’s former ministers Jordi Turull and Josep Rull. Jordi Sànchez, activist and until now MP in the Catalan parliament, was also elected.

Raül Romeva, former foreign minister and a member of Esquerra, won a seat in the Senate.

They have all been in preventative prison for between 14 and 19 months, as well as four other pro-independence politicians and activists, all of whom are currently on trial for rebellion.