June 14, 2019 / 9:43 AM / 5 months ago

Spain court blocks jailed Catalan separatist from collecting MEP credentials

FILE PHOTO: Jailed Catalan politician Oriol Junqueras attends the first session of parliament following a general election in Madrid, Spain, May 21, 2019. Bernat Armangue/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s Supreme Court on Friday blocked Catalan separatist Oriol Junqueras from leaving jail to collect his credentials for the European Parliament, to which he was elected on May 26.

Without the credentials, Junqueras, who is in prison awaiting the conclusion of a high profile trial on Catalonia’s bid for independence from Spain, is unable to claim his seat in the European legislature.

The court said its ruling did not mean he would permanently lose his European seat and that he must remain in jail while it concludes its deliberations surrounding the trial of 12 Catalan political leaders who led the region’s secession push in 2017.

Junqueras had been set to temporarily leave the prison where he has been held since 2017 on Monday to collect the papers.

Catalonia’s independence drive has overshadowed Spanish politics for years and is a major test for Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists after they won a national election in April but fell short of a majority.

Junqueras, the former deputy head of the region, is charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds for his part in organizing a referendum and declaration of independence that were deemed illegal by Spain’s Constitutional Court. He denies the charges.

Two other Catalan politicians won European Parliament seats in May but have also been unable to formalize their places because they will be detained if they return to Spain to collect their MEP papers.

The region’s former leader Carles Puigdemont and local council member Antoni Comin have both lived in self-imposed exile in Belgium since arrest warrants were issued following the attempted secession.

Junqueras was allowed to leave jail in May to collect his credentials as a member of Spain’s lower house of parliament following April’s election although he will not be able to serve as a lawmaker until the trial is concluded.

Reporting by Belen Carreno; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Jesus Aguado and Catherine Evans

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