Spain's state attorney calls for release of jailed Catalan leader

  30 December 2019    Read: 727

Spain’s state attorney called on Monday for the release of Catalan separatist Oriol Junqueras from prison, in what was widely seen as a gesture of political goodwill as the Socialist Party seeks support to form a government.

The state attorney’s office asked the Spanish Supreme Court to let Junqueras go to Brussels to take his seat as a European MP. He was sentenced in October to 13 years in prison over his role in a failed 2017 bid for Catalan independence.

Junqueras was elected to the European Parliament in May while he was awaiting the verdict in his case in jail.

Spain’s Supreme Court is expected to give a ruling in coming weeks.

The European Union’s top court said this month that Junqueras was entitled to immunity as an EU lawmaker.

The Spanish attorney asked the European parliament to strip Junqueras of immunity so the politically sensitive case against him would not be completely dropped, but this would require an almost impossible consensus among the 700-odd MEPs.

The state attorney’s opinion was widely anticipated, coming amid a campaign by the Socialists to court Junqueras’s party, Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), to back a Socialist-led government.

The Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and ERC have been meeting regularly since a Nov. 10 election that saw the Socialists emerge as the winner but fall short of a majority amid a deeply fragmented parliament.

A rapid coalition deal with the far-left Unidas Podemos party brought their total seat count to 155, still short of the 176 seats needed for a majority. The 13 seats held by ERC are thus crucial in the coalition talks.

More about: Spain   Catalonia