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European Parliament strips 3 MEPs of immunity over 'sedition' charges in Catalonia

(From L) Former leaders of Catalonia Antoni Comin, Carles Puigdemont, and Clara Ponsati pose as they give a press conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, on February 24, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The European Parliament has lifted the immunity from prosecution of former regional president of Catalonia and two of his government officials over charges of "sedition."

The chamber announced on Tuesday that EU lawmakers had voted clearly in favor of waiving the immunity of Carles Puigdemont, the former regional president of Catalonia, and two former cabinet members, Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati.

Puigdemont’s immunity was lifted by 400 votes to 248, while those of Comin and Ponsati were removed by 404 votes to 247, according to the parliament.

Later in the day, Spain’s Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya hailed the decision, saying it showed that “the problems of Catalonia are to be resolved within Spain and not at a European level.”

The three MEPs have already said they will take the case to the European Court of Justice.

Spain accuses Puigdemont and Comin of sedition and embezzlement. The two, in self-exile in Belgium, formally became members of the European Parliament in June 2019.

Ponsati, who is also accused of sedition, is in Scotland and has been officially a member of the chamber since January last year.

Spain issued their arrest warrants and asked the European Union (EU) to extradite them for their role in organizing a 2017 independence referendum deemed illegal by a Spanish court.

Belgium has so far denied Spain’s extradition requests.

A court in January refused to extradite Lluis Puig, another former member of the Catalan government living in Belgium, over charges of misuse of public funds.

On October 27, 2017, the then-Catalan president Puigdemont attempted to declare independence from Spain.

The Spanish Senate invoked article 155 of the constitution giving autonomous status to Catalonia right after the declaration, dismissing Puigdemont and the Catalan government.

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