December 20, 2019 / 11:11 AM / a month ago

After court ruling, Catalan separatists get temporary badges as EU lawmakers

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Catalan separatist leaders Carles Puigdemont and Antoni Comin received temporary accreditation as members of the European Parliament on Friday, a day after the European Union’s highest court issued a ruling with favorable implications for them.

Former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, former Catalan regional ministers Antoni Comin and Lluis Puig arrive at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium December 20, 2019. REUTERS/Johanna Geron

Previously unable to collect their credentials due to fears of being arrested by Spain, the two politicians, who live in self-imposed exile in Belgium, should get full accreditation in January at the earliest, a chamber’s spokeswoman said.

The decision stems from Thursday’s ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) saying that imprisoned separatist leader Oriol Junqueras was entitled to immunity as an MEP after being elected in May.

Puigdemont and Comin also won European Parliament seats in May but fears of returning to Spain, where they face arrest warrants, prevented them from taking their oaths and collecting their MEP credentials.

“We are at the place where we should have been six months ago,” Puigdemont told reporters inside the European Parliament, where he and Comin collected their badges.

The former Catalan regional government president said he hoped to take part in the next parliamentary session and criticized the Spanish judiciary, which he said was not independent and could not guarantee the defense of their rights.

Puigdemont faces an arrest warrant from Spain for his role in the 2017 failed independence drive in Catalonia. The warrant is being analyzed by Belgium.

He said he wished to visit Catalonia as soon as possible, but that it was too early to say when that would be.

The EU’s highest court said earlier on Friday that a lower EU court must reexamine the requests of Puigdemont and Comin to take up their seats as European lawmakers in light of Junqueras’ ruling after the lower court had dismissed their request in June.

Junqueras was sentenced to 13 years in prison in October for his role in an Catalan independence referendum that was deemed illegal by Spanish courts. He was elected an MEP while in prison awaiting the verdict.

Reporting by Jonas Ekblom and Bart Biesemans in Brussels, and Joan Faus in Barcelona; Editing by Andrei Khalip

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