Today has seen a fresh move by Oriol Junqueras in his efforts to take up his seat in the European parliament. Following the decision by Spain’s Supreme Court to keep him in prison on January 9 —thus ignoring the judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)—, the ERC leader’s legal team has urged the Supreme Court to file a pre-trial question with the European court to ascertain whether Junqueras was lawfully convicted, considering the Spanish court never asked the European parliament’s prior consent. In other words, Spain never asked for Junqueras’ immunity —which, as the CJEU has ruled, he was afforded the moment he was elected— to be revoked.
This is the substance of a new appeal filed by Junqueras’ lead counsel, Andreu Van den Eynde, on January 14, where the attorney claims that the Supreme Court’s decision was “unlawful”: “it is unlawful to submit a pre-trial question and then fail to apply the outcome of the interpretation of EU law made by the CJEU”. And he goes on two argue that the Supreme Court, presided over by Justice Manuel Marchena, “cannot freely interpret the judgement issued by the CJEU, but must apply it”.
According to the appeal, the legal proceedings against Junqueras should have been put on hold the day after the trial came to an end (13 June 2019), pending a ruling from the CJEU on the pre-trial question. The document insists that Junqueras is entitled to immunity and demands that he be allowed to travel to the European parliament to take up his seat in the chamber. Furthermore, the appeal denounces that Junqueras’ “rights to freedom, free speech, equal treatment, due process, a fair trial and political participation and representation” have been violated.
In a ruling earlier this year, Spain’s Supreme Court argued that Junqueras had no immunity and refused to release him so that he may take up his seat as an MEP. The court claimed that the judgement issued by the CJEU referred to Junqueras’ pre-trial detention, before he received a 13-year prison sentence. Still, Van den Eynde is adamant that immunity must offer protection “from a prison sentence following a conviction, not just from pre-trial detention”. And he adds that “only the European Parliament may suspend a member’s immunity”.
Van den Eynde emphasises that, on the same day he handed down his verdict, Justice Marchena had pledged in writing to abide by the ruling of the CJEU “regardless of Mr Junqueras’ judicial or pre-trial status”. Junqueras’ lawyer believes that the European court’s ruling should have been enforced “regardless of whether the trial [in Madrid] was over or not, and even if the defendant had already been convicted”.