MADRID – Spain’s parliament suspended on Friday four Catalan politicians currently on trial at the Supreme Court for their alleged participation separatist referendum back in 2017 from taking their seats in the national parliament.
The speaker of the country’s lower chamber, the Congress of Deputies, Socialist Party (PSOE) member Meritxell Batet, told reporters the decision had been made by the speaker’s committee following consultations with Parliament and the Supreme Court.
Batet acknowledged that parliament was faced with an “unprecedented” situation and that the committee had acted to safeguard legislative power and guarantee the rights of parliamentarians.
“The speaker’s committee of the Congress of Deputies has agreed to automatically suspend from their positions and therefore their rights and duties established in the rules of the chamber the right honorable members Mr. Oriol Junqueras i Vies, Mr. Josep Rull i Andreu, Mr. Jordi Sanchez i Picanyol and Mr. Jordi Turull i Negre,” Batet said.
Junqueras, the former regional vice president of Catalonia, who is facing hefty charges of rebellion and sedition, was in the general elections of April 28 elected to represent the party he leads, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), while Rull, Sanchez and Turull, were voted into the Madrid-based national parliament as MPs for Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia, JxCat).
On Tuesday, all four were briefly released from preventative prison in Madrid to take their seats in Parliament in what turned out to be a controversial session peppered with protests from mainstream parties opposed to the decision to include the detainees.
JxCat, the party of self-exiled former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, also welcomed a new senator, Raül Romeva.
As well as handling the suspension of the Catalan lawmakers, the committee had to analyze what effects removing four MPs from the 350-seat chamber would have on the absolute majority threshold.
Of the nine members of the speaker’s committee charged with making a decision on the four Catalan separatist MPs, only two members of the left-wing Unidas Podemos (United We Can, in English) asked for more time.
“We made our disagreement clear, accepting the decision the committee took on a majority basis,” Irene Montero, the party’s parliamentary spokesperson, told the press.
The conservative Popular Party and Ciudadanos (Citizens, in English) welcomed the decision but lamented the fact the lawmakers had been allowed to take their oaths in the first place.
Ana Pastor, a former speaker who is now a member of the committee for the PP, said 48 hours had been wasted.
JxCat said it would petition for the decision to be re-evaluated.
The lawmakers in question are among the 12 Catalan separatists leaders currently on trial for charges ranging from rebellion and sedition to misuse of public funds related to their alleged activities promoting and facilitating an illegal independence referendum in Catalonia and unilaterally declaring independence back in October 2017.
The Catalan crisis, which had been simmering for years, exploded in 2017 with the events that led up to the Oct. 1 referendum on the prosperous region’s secession from the rest of the country, which was deemed unconstitutional by the judiciary.
As a consequence of the disputed vote and the regional government’s subsequent unilateral declaration of independence, Madrid triggered a constitutional article that stripped the devolved region from its autonomy, deposed then-Catalan President Puigdemont and called new regional elections.