The European Parliament has voted to lift the parliamentary immunity from prosecution of three Catalan separatist MEPs, including Carles Puidgemont, which Spain has charged with sedition for their roles in organising an illegal 2017 independence referendum.
The decision was adopted during the EU parliament’s plenary session on Monday evening, by 400 votes to 248 concerning the former regional head of government, Puidgemont, and by 404 votes to 247 concerning the two former cabinet members, Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati, according to an announcement by the EU institution issues on Tuesday morning.
While the move could help Spain’s bid to extradite the separatists, the extradition will have to be decided first by the Belgian justice system, as Puigdemont and Comin are in self-imposed exile in Belgium.
All three have rejected the charges against them, with Puigdemont labelling them as “a clear case of political persecution,” while reacting to the parliament’s decision, he called the move as a “sad day” for the European Parliament.
“It is a sad day for the European Parliament. We have lost our immunity but the European Parliament has lost more than that, and as a result, European democracy too. This is a clear case of political prosecution,” Puigdemont said.
The EU parliament’s move was hailed by Spain, with the country’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya saying that the parliament’s decision sent a clear message to Spain that “Catalonia’s problems must be solved in Spain, not in Europe.”
“This is precisely the line that the Spanish government has maintained, stretching a hand to all Catalan political forces to look for a solution to Catalonia’s problems through dialogue and negotiation. This is the message that we receive today from the European Parliament,” Gonzalez Laya said.