EU lawmakers recommend lifting immunity of Catalan MEPs

File photo. Former members of the Catalan government now members of European Parliament, Carles Puigdemont (L) atends a debate on annual report for 2018 and 2019 on Fundamental rights in the European Union, during a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 24 November 2020. [Olivier Hoslet/EPA/EFE]

The European Parliament’s legal committee on Tuesday (23 February) voted to recommend lifting the immunity of three Catalan lawmakers wanted by Spain for sedition over a failed 2017 independence bid, parliamentary sources said.

Legislators approved a motion 15 to eight to remove the immunity of separatist leaders Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati as members of the parliament, the sources said.

The committee’s recommendation will now be voted on by the full EU parliament in March.

Puigdemont, the former leader of the separatist movement of Spain’s Catalonia region that includes Barcelona, has been living in self-exile in Belgium to escape a Spanish arrest warrant over his organisation of a banned 2017 referendum on independence.

He was elected along with his former education and health ministers Ponsati and Comin as an MEP in 2019, meaning they enjoy immunity from prosecution.

Comin is also in Belgium and subject to a European arrest warrant, while Ponsati is in Scotland and faces an extradition claim there.

Madrid asked the parliament last year to strip them of their immunity, but a decision on this by their fellow MEPs was delayed by the coronavirus crisis.

The final decision to extradite them to Spain would have to be taken by the authorities in the countries where they are living.

Belgian court rejects extradition of Catalan separatist

A Belgian court on Friday (7 August) rejected the extradition of a former Catalan regional minister to face charges in Spain related to the banned 2017 independence referendum, prosecutors said.

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