MEPs strip ex-Catalan leader Puigdemont of immunity

Brussels, Mar 9 (efe-epa).- The European Parliament on Tuesday voted to remove parliamentary immunity from the former president of Spain’s Catalonia region Carles Puigdemont and two political allies, paving the way for the Spanish judiciary to re-issue arrest warrants for their role in an illegal independence referendum.

Lawmakers voted 404 to 248 in favor of the measure to remove the protection afforded to Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, who have said they would appeal the decision at the EU Court of Justice.

Comín and Ponsatí were members of Puigdemont’s regional Catalan government, which in 2017 spearheaded the illegal referendum to break Catalonia away from Spain.

The trio fled the country in the wake of the unsanctioned poll.

Spain’s judiciary found other leading Catalan separatists, including the former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, guilty of sedition and handed down prison sentences of up to 13 years.

Puigdemont and Comín went into self-imposed exile in Belgium while Ponsatí returned to Scotland, where she had previously worked as a lecturer at St Andrews University.

Courts in Belgium and Scotland later rejected Spanish extradition attempts.

The illegal referendum on 1 October 2017 put Spain on the brink of a constitutional crisis.

Catalan separatist parties have dominated local politics since and resecured a coalition majority in the most recent regional elections in February.

The Socialist Party (PSOE), which leads the Spanish coalition government, narrowly became the largest party in the Catalan chamber. EFE-EPA

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