March 9 (UPI) — The European Parliament said Tuesday it has revoked immunity for former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and two fellow separatists, a move that could allow them to be extradited to Spain to face sedition charges.
The result of the EP vote on Monday was 400-248, with 45 abstentions. The 705-seat European Parliament is one of the European Union’s three legislative branches and is headquartered in France.
The EP had granted special protections for Puigdemont and two aides, Antoni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, as members of the body. But the body’s Committee on Legal Affairs determined the three shouldn’t receive immunity since their EP membership came after they fled Spain amid controversy over a disputed independence referendum in 2017.
Puigdemont led the breakaway effort when he staged a unilateral declaration of Catalan independence from Spain. He was ultimately forced to give up power and fled to Belgium when Spanish authorities went after him and several members of his administration. He faces charges of sedition if he’s returned to Spain.
The vote allows Madrid to reactive an arrest warrant to extradite Puigdemont.
Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha González Laya lauded the EP’s move in a video statement posted to Twitter.
“Catalonia’s problems are solved in Spain, they are not resolved in Europe,” she said.
Puigdemont, meanwhile, called it a “sad day” for the EP in a joint news conference with Comín and Ponsatí in Brussels.
“We have lost our immunity but the European Parliament has lost more than that, and as a result, European democracy, too,” Puigdemont said. “This is a clear case of political prosecution.”
Puigdemont added that Spanish authorities have been driven by “higher intensity political and parliamentary strategies.”
“And now the European Parliament has unfortunately fallen into this strategy,” he said.