May 24, 2019

Catalonia: Political Prisoners Take Seats in New Spanish Parliament

On 21 May 2019, five Catalan political prisoners who won seats in the lower house of the Spanish Parliament after last month’s [April 2019] election, took their seats in the new parliament under tight security supervision. As they took the oath of allegiance to the Spanish constitution, they departed from the parliamentary script by stating that the Catalan referendum for independence constituted a legal democratic process. According to Catalonia’s vice-president Pere Aragonès, the five Catalans taking their seats was “a victory against repression”.


Below is an article published by The National:

Five Catalan political prisoners who won seats in last month’s election were cheered yesterday as they arrived amid tight security from prison for the opening session of the new Spanish parliament in Madrid.

Oriol Junqueras, Josep Rull, Jordi Turull and Jordi Sanchez were warmly greeted in congress and all hugged Pablo Iglesias, leader of the left-wing Podemos party.

Raul Romeva received a similar welcome when he arrived to take his seat in the senate.

Junqueras, leader of the pro-independence ERC and former Catalan vice-president, spoke with Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, congratulating him on his party’s election victory and wishing him ‘success’ for his anticipated new term in office.

Later, as Junqueras approached Catalan Socialist Meritxell Batet after she was elected speaker, he stopped in front of Sanchez when both agreed on the need to ‘speak’.

Their day of freedom did not pass without incident, however, when they departed the parliamentary script as they took the oath of allegiance to the Spanish constitution.

Watched by Catalan parliament speaker, Roger Torrent, and vice-president, Pere Aragonès, from the visitors’ gallery, Junqueras added: “As a committed republican, as a political prisoner, and by legal imperative,” as their political rivals stamped their feet and banged their tables.

When they came to speak, Sanchez, Rull and Turull, who were elected under the JxCat banner, added: “By legal imperative and faithful to the democratic mandate of the Catalan people from the October 1 referendum.”

In the senate, Romeva, also took his oath: “Until the proclamation of the Catalan republic, always committed to freedom, equality, and fraternity, as a political prisoner and by legal imperative, I promise.”

The altered oaths prompted an outburst from Albert Rivera, leader of the staunchly unionist Citizen’s Party, who accused the pro-independence MPs of “humiliating the Spanish people yet again”.

In a point of order before the newly-elected speaker, he said: “Spain is a democracy. There are no ‘political prisoners’. There is only justice.

“They will not succeed, but I ask that the speaker take action.”

In her first intervention as speaker, Batet responded that all the phrasing employed across the chamber had been “in keeping with the regulations and past rulings by the constitutional court”.

She said: “My role as speaker will be, at all times, to seek respect for the constitution, respect for the law, and respect for others.”

Podemos and the far-right Vox also had their own caveats to the oath, with the former calling for “social justice” and Vox members adding “for Spain”.

Speaking outside the parliament, Aragonès told journalists: “The fact that despite the repression, Oriol Junqueras and Raul Romeva took their seats in parliament today is in itself a victory against repression.”

From the generally relaxed atmosphere at the congress and senate, the five prisoners were returned to Soto Del Real prison in Madrid, in preparation for the continuation of their trial today.

However, their time in parliament could be short-lived as Rivera, along with MPs from the right-wing Popular Party have said they will try to get them suspended.

Under parliamentary rules, any MP who is placed in temporary detention can be automatically suspended.

The possibility did not appear to concern Junqueras though. As he took his seat, he tweeted to his supporters and voters: “A million thank yous,” while Rull wrote: “We are sitting in parliament because the polls decided so. Catalonia and the Catalan people led us to parliament, despite some not wanting us to be there.”


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons