Amid tight security and huge anticipation, Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull entered Spain's Congress today to formalise their registration as new deputies. The four arrived under guard from Soto del Real prison and completed all the formalities under the watchful gaze of the police. The exceptional situation in Catalonia was taken into the heart of Madrid, where the Congress and Senate will have to decide what to do with their new members. The Supreme Court has made it clear it doesn't believe it has to apply for suplicatorio permission to continue with the trial.
It wasn't announced in advance how or when they would arrive, but the crowd of media present didn't have too long to wait: just gone 10am the four, they walked out of the elevator leading up from the car park. Inside at that time were former Spanish justice minister Rafael Catalá (PP) and IU's general coordinator Alberto Garzón.
They were met at the elevator with applause by the waiting JxCat, ERC and EH Bildu deputies, who accompanied them to the Lázaro de Dou room where they were to present themselves. Present, among others, were Gabriel Rufián, Joan Capdevila and Gerard Gómez de Moral of ERC, Laura Borràs, Míriam Nogueras, Sergi Miquel and Josep Lluís Cleries of JxCat, and Jon Iñarritu and Marian Beitialarrangoitia of EH Bildu. Also there was Francesc Homs, former Congress deputy, former Catalan government spokesperson and defence coordinator for JxCat, who faced legal proceedings himself following the unofficial 2014 referendum.
The prisoners were prohibited from taking part in any meetings in the Congress and from speaking to the press. They were solely and exclusively there to formalise their registration as deputies. They did, however, all film videos to be posted on their Twitter feeds. They also had a chance to enjoy coffees and Iberian ham sandwiches from the Congress' bar brought by their party colleagues. This was a breakfast they couldn't have got in prison and, although not explicitly banned in the court's ruling, it still made their police escort uncomfortable.
Estic molt orgullós de tots vosaltres! Us estimo! pic.twitter.com/O9kEHNIWuQ— Oriol Junqueras 🎗️ (@junqueras) 20 de maig de 2019
Whilst the prisoners were going through the formalities of the registration, the press were kept outside in the corridor. Just metres away, the chamber's standing commission was meeting. They have to decide, among other questions, on what the plan is for tomorrow's opening of Congress.
The prisoners have received their folders and the material for their jobs, but had to leave it all with their party colleagues, being banned from taking it back to prison with them. The Congress, unlike all the other new deputies, didn't provide them with official laptops or mobiles.
It took little more than an hour for them to make the necessary declarations of interests and have the official photos taken. Then they disappeared back into the elevator they arrived in.
"What's shameful, taking into account that their rights are intact with positions which guarantee them immunity, is that they should have to leave to return to Soto del Real prison until tomorrow morning when they'll return to the chamber," said Borràs afterwards.