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.
Former VP, Oriol Junqueras, former ministers Jordi Turull and Josep Rull and former leader of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) Jordi Sànchez will take their seats in the Spanish Parliament. Raül Romeva, who was Catalan Minister for Foreign Affair under Puigdemont’s Government, will take his seat in the Senate the same day.
Junqueras and Romeva won their seats since his party ERC ranked first in Catalonia in the 28A Spanish Elections. This historic result gave ERC 15 seats in the Spanish Parliament. The jailed representatives of ‘Junts per Catalunya’, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull and Jordi Sànchez will take three of the seven seats obtanied by his party.
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.
It is still unclear how the opening session will develop. According to sources close to the Congress and Senate, the elected politicians won’t be handcuffed and will be given freedom of movement within the Spanish chamber. However, police agents will be placed at the doors in order to prevent any prospective escape attempt. Their treatment is expected to be similar to that seen during the trial, where it was forbidden to take pictures or videos of the defendants. However, this might be more difficult to control in the Congress, where there are many journalists and cameras.
The Catalan Government spokeswoman Meritxell Budó said images of the politicians being sworn in before being taken back to jail “is an indication that they are political prisoners.”
The legal representatives of the five elected politicians said their clients will not be at the chambers “only as a formality” 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.
Judges’ refuse temporary release
However, 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.
Their lawyers said they should be allowed to exercise their rights as political representatives and thus lamented the judges’ decision. They considered that the magistrated have chosen a “limited, minimal, and restrictive” interpretation of their rights.
Junqueras banned from televised debate
Spain’s electoral authority has ruled out jailed Catalan politician, Oriol Junqueras, from taking part in a televised debate on Tuesday night between candidates in the European election.
The program due to begin at 10pm on the Catalan public television channel, TV3, is incompatible with the timetable of the prison where the former vice president is being held, according to the authority.
Former vice president Junqueras, who has been in custody for over a year while being tried in the Supreme Court for his part in the 2017 independence bid, is the Esquerra party’s main candidate for a seat in Brussels.
On Monday, the electoral authority for Barcelona gave the green light for Junqueras, and also Toni Comín, a former minister who is in exile in Belgium and is standing for the Junts per Catalunya party in the election, to take part in the TV debate, yet he was also barred in the end on Tuesday evening.
That original ruling was in response to an appeal against Junqueras appearing from the Ciutadans party (Cs), a decision the party’s spokesman, Carlos Carrizosa, called “scandalous” and an “infringement of equality” towards the other candidates.
Yet, it was an objection by the prison service, on the grounds that allowing the videoconferencing facilities to be used at that time would be disruptive, that led the electoral authority to overrule the previous decision and bar Junqueras from taking part.
The electoral authority also turned down requests by Junqueras to do interviews with the Catalunya Ràdio radio station and the Ara newspaper on the morning of May 16, because the videoconferencing facilities “have already been reserved” for court business.
Concerning Comín, the electoral authority believes it would not be fair the fact that he takes part in the debate via videolink (and with the potential advantage of using technology or having assistants with him), while the others are in the TV set.