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Spain's top court asks EU parliament to strip Catalan separatist leaders of immunity

FILE PHOTO: Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont shows a badge at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium December 20, 2019. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s Supreme Court asked the European Parliament on Friday to strip Catalan separatist leaders Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin of their immunity as members of the Spanish parliament.

In a statement, the court said it had also reiterated its request to Belgian authorities to arrest and hand over Puigdemont and Comin to Spain based on their European arrest warrants.

Former Catalan leader Puigdemont and Comin, another former member of the Catalan government, are wanted in Spain on charges of sedition after organizing a failed Catalan independence referendum in 2017.

Both fled to Belgium in 2017 in the wake of Catalonia’s abortive secession bid. Spain’s Supreme Court has sentenced various other Catalan leaders to jail terms for their role in Catalonia’s failed bid for secession in 2017.

Puigdemont and Comin were both elected to the European Parliament in May 2019 but were unable to collect their credentials for fear of being arrested in Spain.

Last month, the European Court of Justice ruled that fellow Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras, now imprisoned in Spain, was entitled to immunity as an elected European lawmaker (MEP).

Following the ECJ ruling, Catalan separatists demanded the release of Junqueras and said they would take legal action, while Spain’s conservative PP party applauded the decision.,

Hours after Friday’s Spanish Supreme Court request to the European Parliament, Catalan separatist MEP Dina Riba released a letter calling on its president, David Sassoli, to instead assert Puigdemont, Comin and Junqueras’ immunity.

Reporting by Jose Elias Rodriguez, Inti Landauro and Joan Faus; Editing by Andrei Khalip/Mark Heinrich