EU Parliament strips Puigdemont, two other Catalans of immunity

The plenary hall is prepared as Catalan MEPs Antoni Comin, Carles Puigdemont and Clara Ponsati face an EU parliamentary vote on a waiver of their immunity in Brussels, Belgium

The European Parliament has voted to strip the immunity from prosecution from Carles Puigdemont and two other Catalan separatist lawmakers Spain has charged with sedition.

The chamber announced on Tuesday that EU lawmakers had voted clearly in favour of waiving the immunity of Catalonia’s former regional head of government and two former cabinet members, Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati.

Puigdemont and Comin, who are in self-imposed exile in Belgium, formally became members of the European Parliament in June 2019, while Ponsati, who is in Scotland, was officially a member from January 2020.

All are subject to European arrest warrants issued by Spain which is seeking their extradition related to their role in organising a 2017 independence referendum deemed illegal by a Spanish court.

Belgium has so far denied Spain’s requests. A court in January refused to extradite Lluis Puig, another former member of the Catalan government living in Belgium, over charges of misuse of public funds.

Various independence leaders were convicted in Spain of the same charge of sedition in 2019 and sentenced to up to 13 years in prison.

The European Parliament noted in a report issued before the vote on Monday that the acts and prosecution pre-date their becoming members of the parliament in June 2019 and for Ponsati in January 2020.

It also said it was for national judicial systems of EU countries to determine criminal proceedings.

Parliament’s legal affairs committee voted last month that immunity from prosecution should be waived. In each case, the vote was 15 in favour, eight against and two abstentions.

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