The head of the criminal division of Spain’s Supreme Court sent a letter to the EU Parliament on Thursday stating that the 13-year prison sentence for Oriol Junqueras, a Catalan independence leader, would bar him from sitting in the EU parliament.
Junqueras was convicted of sedition and misuse of funds last October for his role in spearheading an unapproved referendum and a declaration of Catalonia’s independence from Spain. Earlier in 2019, however, he won an election to serve in the EU Parliament. Whether Spanish law would allow him to take up his seat remained unclear until the declaration sent Thursday.
The decision is the latest in a judicial roller-coaster for Junqueras, whose case was addressed by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last December. The ECJ’s ruling had appeared to vindicate his ability to take his Parliamentary seat. The decision stated that parliamentary immunity, which protects elected members of the body in performing their duties, had attached in May, when Junqueras was elected. Thus, his criminal proceeding could not be used to prevent him from assuming the seat. However, the court left it to Spanish authorities to decide the scope of that immunity. Following a final conviction and sentencing, which remained unclear and unaddressed at the time the ECJ heard the case, the Spanish justice system could decide the legal consequences of Junqueras’s prison term.
Thursday’s letter to the EU Parliament did just that, declaring that because Junqueras could not be released from custody after the definitive ruling in his case, he would be barred by Spanish law from being sworn in as a member of the European Parliament.