Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 September 2019

Jailed Catalan separatists temporarily released to be sworn in as MPs

The five recently-elected politicians are in Spanish prison for a 2017 secession attempt

Josep Rull, Jordi Sanchez, and Jordi Turull leave after processing their parliamentary acts at Spanish Parliament, in Madrid, Spain. EPA
Josep Rull, Jordi Sanchez, and Jordi Turull leave after processing their parliamentary acts at Spanish Parliament, in Madrid, Spain. EPA

Catalan separatists were released from jail on Monday to obtain their formal certificates as elected MPs the day before the Spanish parliament is to open in Madrid.

The four MPs and a senator were elected in April. They arrived at the chambers early Monday in military police vehicles and were barred from speaking to reporters.

The five, who have been in custody for more than a year, will return to their cells at the Soto del Real prison near Madrid after carrying out the formality.

The Supreme Court, which is trying the men for their role in an October 2017 secession attempt in Catalonia, ruled last week that they could also attend the opening session of parliament and take the oath of office on Tuesday.

But the court ruled against definitively releasing the five, but parliament must still decide whether to suspend their functions as lawmakers until the Supreme Court reaches a verdict on the rebellion charges against them.

Among the five is the former vice president of Catalonia, Oriol Junqueras. Mr Junqueras, 50, was elected a MP as a member of the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC). He faces 25 years in prison in Catalonia.

The others include civic leader Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Turull, Catalonia's government spokesman at the time of the failed attempt to break from Spain. Both were candidates for Together for Catalonia, the party of Catalonia's former president Carles Puigdemont, who fled Spain and avoided arrest.

Josep Rull, also formerly part of Catalonia's regional government, was another elected to the lower house. Raul Romeva, in charge of Catalonia's foreign affairs at the time of the secession bid, was elected to the upper house Senate.

The five were part of a push to hold an independence referendum in October 2017 which sparked Spain's deepest political crisis in decades, as the referendum was followed by a short-lived declaration of independence.

Spain's then conservative prime minister moved in, taking direct control of the region, sacking the Catalan executive and calling snap polls.

Spain's April elections saw Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's socialists win but without the necessary majority to govern solo in a fragmented political landscape marked by the far right's entry into parliament.

As such, Mr Sanchez could need the backing of Catalan separatist lawmakers like the five jailed politicians.

During the parliament's opening session, the five Catalan lawmakers will have to promise to honour the Spanish constitution which calls for the "unbreakable unity" of Spain.

Updated: May 20, 2019 05:05 PM

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