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Jailed Catalan separatists need Supreme Court permission to take seats in Congress and Senate

Five pro-independence leaders were voted in as deputies or senators on Sunday but cannot be sworn in to their roles unless they are physically present at the ceremony

Campaign posters for (l-r) Gabriel Rufián, Raül Romeva, Oriol Junqueras, Carolina Telechea and Montse Bassa.
Campaign posters for (l-r) Gabriel Rufián, Raül Romeva, Oriol Junqueras, Carolina Telechea and Montse Bassa. Europa Press

Five jailed Catalan separatists were elected into office at the Spanish general election on Sunday, but cannot be sworn into their roles unless the Supreme Court gives them permission to attend a ceremony in Congress on May 21.

Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull of the Junts per Catalunya party (Together for Catalonia) and Oriol Junqueras, the leader of the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), were elected as deputies in Congress, while Raül Romeva from the ERC won a seat in the Senate.

Supreme Court sources said the separatist leaders will get permission to attend once formalities are out of the way

But the five separatist leaders are currently being held in custody while they are tried for their involvement in the 2017 secessionist drive in Catalonia. They face charges of rebellion and misuse of public funds, among other offenses.

According to congressional rules, deputies do not need to personally collect their congressional certificate or hand it in to Congress, but they do need to physically be present at the session where they will be officially sworn into office. Supreme Court sources said the separatist leaders will get permission to attend this ceremony on May 21 once formalities are out of the way.

Supreme Court Judge Manuel Marchena explained on Monday that the court is waiting for Congress to confirm the appointments. The separatists’ defense lawyers are expected to ask the Supreme Court to give their defendants permission to leave prison and attend, at the very least, the session on May 21, where newly elected deputies will promise to observe the Constitution.

After this point, it is unclear whether the Catalan leaders will be able to remain in public office. Once they are formally sworn in, the Supreme Court will notify Congress and the Senate that all five have been temporarily suspended from office, under Article 384 of the Criminal Prosecution Law, which automatically suspends any public official accused of rebellion.

If, as is likely, the Supreme Court confirms the suspension, it will be up to congressional leaders to decide whether the deputies should be temporarily replaced by others, or if the number of seats in Congress should be reduced to 346. Given that the Supreme Court does not want to alter government majorities, it is expected to let Congress find the best way to apply the suspension.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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