Friday, 12 March 2021

MEPs rights

 The decision of the European Parliament to strip three Catalan MEPs of their parliamentary immunity from prosecution is worrying. Clearly, giving MEPs effectively "benefit of clergy" and the abuses implicit therein is out of the question, but the crimes with which they are charged by the Spanish government are clearly political ones. The three representatives were elected freely and fairly and their constituents have the right to remain represented by them, unfettered by political opponents, no matter how exalted. It will be a sad day if the EP becomes like the Iranian Majlis, comprising only those members who meet the approval of unelected guardians of right or wrong.

Fortunately, and contradicting the rhetoric of the Leave campaign, EU nations still have control over their own civil law. The EP does not have the power to send the MEPs back to Spain. The courts of Belgium, which hosts most EU institutions, has so far defended the right to remain of two of the MEPs. The third, Clara Ponsati, is in Scotland. The Edinburgh sheriff court had suspended hearing an extradition request from Spain pending the EP consideration of Ponsati's immune status. Though this has now gone against Ponsati, one trusts that the Scots will uphold the tradition of not extraditing on a charge which is not an offence where the subject is resident, and throw out the Spanish request. 

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