Exiled Catalan separatists can take up EU seats | News | DW | 20.12.2019
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Exiled Catalan separatists can take up EU seats

Two former Catalan separatist leaders, Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin, will be allowed to take up their seats in the EU Parliament. A Spanish court had disqualified them despite their election in May.

The fugitive former Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont and former Catalan Health Minister Toni Comin can take up their seats as European lawmakers, the EU's top court ruled Friday, just a day after ruling the same for another jailed separatist.

Spain's judiciary disqualified Puigdemont and Comin from taking up their seats in the EU Parliament due to their role in organizing an unauthorized independence referendum in 2017 — despite the fact that they won elections for the positions in May.

Read more: Catalan protesters: 'We want to make a point'

But on Friday, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) annulled the Spanish government's claim that "the applicants were not officially declared as elected" and referred the matter back to the General Court to be re-examined. This means the pair have received temporary accreditation as EU lawmakers.

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'Historic' day

Puigdemont and Comin have been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since they fled Spain in 2017, when other separatists were imprisoned for their role in the independence referendum. Puigdemont faces an arrest warrant from Spain that is being analyzed by Belgium.   

On Friday, he and Comin toured the vast rooms where parliament sessions are held, as a symbolic gesture after the ECJ decision was made public.

Puigdemont tweeted that the day was "historic" and that the Catalan "conflict" had been "reinforced" by European democracy.

"We have walked out as European Parliament members,'' a beaming Puigdemont said as he showed his temporary badge to reporters.

The pair will receive full accreditation in January at the earliest, said a chamber spokeswoman.

The former Catalan regional government president also said he hopes to take part in the next parliamentary session. He also criticizing the Spanish judiciary, saying it was not independent and could not guarantee the defense of their rights.

The ruling from the ECJ comes a day after it found imprisoned Catalan lawmaker Oriol Junqueras has the right to European parliamentary immunity.

Watch video 01:50

350,000 rally for Catalan independence in Barcelona

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kmm,ed/cw (AP/AFP)