The advocate general of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) says that jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras has the right to be a Member of the European Parliament despite Spain not letting him take up his seat after he was elected in May. In an assessment issued before the ECJ makes a final decision on the matter, the advocate general Maciej Szpunar states that Spain’s Supreme Court cannot prevent Junqueras from taking up his seat. The court in Luxembourg is due to make a final ruling in the coming months following the advocate’s advice.
The advocate general says it is “only voters” who can decide who becomes an MEP, and that it is up to the European Parliament to decide whether to allow Junqueras legislative immunity. He says that once elected, MEPs have a mandate governed by European law, and Spain ”cannot revoke or limit without an express authorization” of European institutions, stating that the law does ”not allow any member state to suspend the mandate of a member of the European Parliament or their prerogatives for any reason.”
Exiled president of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont, who was also unable to assume his position as an MEP, has said that the advocate’s opinions embody the ”enormous injustice” that Junqueras has been victim of. Puigdemont said that Junqueras’s ”rights have been harmed” and that Junqueras, Toni Comín, also currently in exile, and himself should be able to take up their seats in European Parliament.
Junqueras was one of the independence leaders involved in the organization of the 2017 independence referendum deemed illegal by Spanish authorities. He was however held in provisional detention for his actions, and in October 2019 sentenced to 13 years in jail for sedition.
Junqueras, leader of left-wing party Esquerra, was elected as an MEP in May but the Spanish Court did not allow him to take up his seat. Junqueras had appealed for parliamentary immunity, and asked that the verdict to the Catalan referendum trial was put on hold until a ruling had been issued, but the Supreme Court denied the request.