EU Parliament strips former Catalan President, two others of immunity

Brussels, March 9

The European Parliament on Tuesday lifted the immunity of the former President of Spain’s Catalonia region, Carles Puigdemont, and two of his associates, a move that could pave the way for their extradition and reopen the scars of separatism in Spain.

Puigdemont, his aides can’t hide

The assembly’s decision shows that Puigdemont and his two aides can’t hide behind their legislative seats to avoid appearing before the justice system.— Arancha González Laya, Spanish FM

The Spanish government immediately welcomed the decision by the European Union’s legislature as a victory for the rule of law and against those who sought to break the rich northeastern region away from the rest of Spain.

The decision will likely also extend the 3 1/2-year legal saga on the fate of the three separatists by months, if not years, since many avenues for appeal remain open before any possible extraditions. In the decision on Puigdemont, 400 legislators voted for the waiver of immunity, 248 were against and 45 abstained. The measures to lift the immunity of his associates — former Catalan Health Minister Toni Comín and former regional Education Minister Clara Ponsatí — were by largely similar margins. “We have lost our immunity, but the European Parliament has lost more than that. And as a result, European democracy, too,” Puigdemont said. “This is a clear case of political persecution.” He said: “The European Parliament has unfortunately fallen into this strategy.”

Puigdemont and a number of his separatist colleagues fled to Belgium in October 2017, fearing arrest after holding an independence referendum for Catalonia that the Spanish courts and government said was illegal. In 2019, Puigdemont and his two associates won seats in the European Parliament and were afforded protection as members of the EU assembly. Ponsatí said the three would appeal the assembly’s decision to the EU’s higher courts in Luxembourg. — AP

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