The State vs Democracy Catalonia : European Parliament strips jailed Catalan leader of his seat

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Catalan leader’s battle from behind bars

Jailed Catalan separatist leader Oriol Junqueras is to be stripped of his seat in the European Parliament, the assembly’s president said Friday.

Oriol Junqueras is a name that will surely go down in history as being a leader of the Catalan quest for independence from Spain. More than two years ago, he was the legal, legitimate and elected vice president of Catalonia, contributing decisively to calling a referendum of self-determination. Now, he could also be remembered as a key shaper of Europe.

In December, Europe’s top court the ECJ ruled that Junqueras should have enjoyed immunity as an MEP and been allowed to take his seat. Based on that decision, the European Parliament said that Junqueras has been an MEP since he was elected, and would therefore recognise him at next week’s plenary session.

However, the Spanish Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Junqueras, a former vice president of Catalonia and leader of the Catalan Republican Left party, does not have immunity despite having been elected to the European institution.

So far, Junqueras has been in prison for 26 months.The Spanish authorities, despite allowing him to run and be elected (while still in preventive detention), thereafter banned him from taking up his seat in Brussels and sentenced him to 13 years’ imprisonment. The so-called ‘Junqueras Doctrine’ is challenging Spanish procedures and, in doing so, has strengthened some fundamentals that might set the scene for a firmer concept of Europe. Just not in Spain.

The EU Parliament is not prepared to uphold its own court ruling but more so it is not prepared to defend the democratic choice of the Catalonian people.

To start with, please note that the Junqueras Doctrine is vital in promoting a European rule of law. According to the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon, which is the constitutional framework for the Union, the rules are clear and they apply to all. The European Parliament should not be intercepted by other authorities, however important these authorities might be in member states. And those who defend the rule of law in Spain cannot skip the rule of law in Europe.

In arguing the verdict, the ECJ has clearly stated that it is not up to member states and their authorities to decide who should represent voters; it is up to the voters themselves. If Junqueras was chosen by more than one million citizens, then he should be acknowledged as a full Member of the European Parliament.

In addition, the ECJ has primacy over other courts, and its rulings must be considered supreme and binding by lower tribunals. In this particular case, the Spanish Supreme Court is not supreme any more. It has taken a wrong course and has been amended by a higher court. It need not even consult prosecutors and other actors about the ECJ sentence, as it has done; it should proceed with no delay, obey and comply. Failing to do so implies a flouting of the rule of law in Europe. And this disobedience should obviously have consequences.

David Sassoli the EU parliament president made no attempt uphold the EJC court ruling or make augment to maintain the democratic MEP’s seat but took the opportunity to strip Junqueras of his MEP status directly after Spanish court ruling.

Furthermore, the idea that democracy must prevail is paramount. In arguing the verdict, the ECJ has clearly stated that it is not up to member states and their authorities to decide who should represent voters; it is up to the voters themselves. If Junqueras was chosen by more than one million citizens, then he should be acknowledged as a full Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Mr Sassoli, the current Speaker of the European Parliament, made it very clear; this all-important decision of the ECJ has to be applied. No excuses are valid for ignoring universal suffrage.

Most importantly, political and civil rights must be respected. Citizens have the right to be represented by whomever they choose. Elected MEPs have the right of representing citizens, of immunity, of attending sessions, of expressing their views and ideas uncensored, and of moving around freely in a free Europe. This also applies to MEPs Carles Puigdemont and Antoni Comín, ex-president and ex-minister of Catalonia respectively, who are in exile and should take office.

The concept of European citizenship has to be protected. Whatever their origin, creed, sex or ideas, all citizens in the EU are equal. They cannot be discriminated against, regardless of the member state’s position. The idea in some countries that “we have the risk of another Catalonia in our land” does not justify trampling on millions of citizens. Let us state clearly that Catalans are overwhelmingly pro-European and tend to be firm Remainers (to use the Brexit vernacular). Denying them full citizenship while bowing down to Eurosceptics is most unwise politically.

Mr Junqueras has already done more for a free, fair, strong and united Europe than many so-called Europeanists. Now dare to call him a separatist.
Raul Romeva, Alfred Bosch -Catalan politicians

For EU supporters, the European Parliament is sovereign, as no other authority can prevent elected MEPs from enjoying their condition. It is the single body that can request or execute a waiver for parliamentary immunity. MEPs can only be suspended, as has been done in the past, following a vote by their fellow MEPs. In denying the capacity of member states to meddle with the most democratic of EU institutions, European sovereignty is strengthened.

Bobby Sands democratically elected while serving time in prison

Many people will remember Bobby Sands, the 27-year-old Republican hunger-strike and Westminster MP, who died in the hospital wing of the Maze Prison following his hunger strike. I will make no comparisons between Bobby Sands and Junqueras other than how the rule of Law was carried out and the democratic will of the people.

Bobby Sands, was elected as MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone during his time in prison and while on hunger-strike. Even in the UK and in such circumstances we follow the rule of law but more so that of democracy and representation.

following Bobby sands election to the British Parliament as an Anti H-Block candidate. His death and those of nine other hunger strikers changed many things including our right of democratic representation. Sands died only twenty-six days after winning his westminster seat, precipitating a second by-electionNew legislation was passed by Parliament to bar “convicted felons” from standing for election; as a result another hunger striker could not be nominated,

Junqueras prisoner of the state

Junqueras was elected to the European Parliament in May, despite being in jail in Spain. In October, he was jailed for 13 years after being convicted of sedition and the misuse of public funds related to the region’s failed independence bid in 2017.

The Supreme Court judges ruled they could not allow Junqueras to serve as MEP given the existence of the prison sentence, which under Spanish law means the automatic loss of his capacity to hold public office.

On Tuesday, Junqueras was elected as the head of the regionalist European Free Alliance in the European Parliament.

The jailed Catalan separatist Oriol Junqueras was elected as the head of the regionalist European Free Alliance in the European Parliament on Tuesday.

The vote by the EFA — which forms the fourth-largest political group with the Greens in the chamber — comes a day after the European Parliament said it would recognise him as an MEP following an EU court decision last month.

Junqueras, Catalonia’s former vice president, was in jail pending trial over a failed push for regional independence in 2017 after he won a seat in last May’s European election. Spanish authorities blocked him from leaving detention to take his seat, and he was later sentenced to 13 years in prison for charges of sedition and misuse of public funds.

“A Spanish court which does not obey the European judiciary,” tweeted Catalan president Quim Torra, who criticised the ruling. “Worry grows across Europe at the Spanish state’s democratic slide.”

Finally, the case proves in a very poignant way that this is not a domestic affair within the Kingdom of Spain. A major European institution has shown that Spanish authorities exceeded their power in striking against a pro-independence Catalan leader. We can suspect that this was part of an effort to punish and take revenge on political ideas and actions some would rather supress.

But no matter how one likes or dislikes the idea of a Catalan Republic, Europe has now spoken with a loud voice. Member states are accountable; they must answer for any abuse, and fundamental values of democracy, as human rights and European togetherness, must be restored.

Mr Junqueras has already done more for a free, fair, strong and united Europe than many so-called Europeanists. Now dare to call him a separatist.

  • Raul Romeva was Catalonia’s Minister for External Affairs when Madrid imposed direct rule in 2017. He is now serving a 12-year jail term. Alfred Bosch is the current Minister for External Affairs of Catalonia.

It’s not just Catalan separatists. Democracy is also on trial in Spain.

The Catalan president is himself facing legal challenges to his democratically elected position as the Spanish Supreme Court on Friday decided against temporarily freezing a decision by electoral officials to strip Catalan premier Quim Torra of his seat in the regional parliament.

Magistrates are considering an appeal by Torra against a ruling by the Catalan regional High Court, which in December found him guilty of disobedience for refusing to remove pro-independence banners from public buildings during an election campaign, which violated regulations on political neutrality. The ruling, however, is not definitive until the Supreme Court issues a decision on Torra’s appeal.

Based on the regional court’s decision, which bars Torra from office for a period of 18 months, Spain’s Central Electoral Board (JEC) agreed to strip the separatist premier of his lawmaker credentials in the Catalan parliament. The Supreme Court feels there is no need to put the JEC’s decision on hold while it considers the merits of the case.

The Supreme Court justices believe that Catalan parliamentary officials will allow Torra to continue serving as the regional premier despite losing his seat in the chamber. Catalonia’s charter of rights, the Estatut, says that the head of government is “elected by parliament from among its own members,” but it does not specify that this seat has to be retained throughout the premier’s term in office.

Torra on Friday insisted that he will not obey the JEC, and called the Supreme Court’s decision “a new, serious and unacceptable violation of the sovereignty of the Catalan parliament.” He also recalled that the regional chamber, which is controlled by a pro-independence majority, last week approved a motion calling the JEC’s decision “a coup.” On Friday, the Catalan premier used this expression again.

The JEC – a body made up of eight randomly selected Supreme Court judges and five university professors named by political parties with congressional representation – was divided over its decision. Six members entered dissenting opinions, arguing that the JEC lacks the powers to deprive Torra of his seat, and that this privilege falls to the Catalan parliament, once the regional court’s ruling has become final.

Paul knaggs, Raul Romeva, Alfred Bosch

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