It's now a reality: the four imprisoned Catalan politicians elected last month to Spain's Congress have been suspended from office. That was the decision this Friday by the lower house's presiding Board headed by newly elected speaker Meritxell Batet, unable to put it off any longer having received the report she'd requested from the chamber's lawyers on the matter. That report was clear: they can be suspended under article 384 bis of Spain's law on criminal prosecution and the Supreme Court doesn't have to ask for suplicatorio permission to continue with the trial. Now the Board has accepted that recommendation. The only opposition was from the members of Unidas Podemos, Gloria Elizo and Gerardo Pisarello.
Specifically, the report concludes that "it corresponds to the Board of the Congress to declare automatically suspended from exercising their roles the deputies Oriol Junqueras, Josep Rull, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull", and that its "their responsibility to set out the scope of this suspension whilst the situation of imprisonment continues, adopting the measures necessary to bring into full effect the legal provision".
With that, it seems as if the first great tricky issue of Meritxell Batet's time as speaker has been resolved. Her first step had been to ask the Supreme Court on Wednesday for a report on the application of the relevant law in the law on criminal prosecution. Within twenty-four hours, the court responded that such a request was "inviable" given its "constitutional configuration". The Board then asked the lower house's legal service for a report, which was also returned within a day.
The suspension from their rights and duties was backdated to 21st May, the day of the opening of the new legislature. The speaker described the situation as "unprecedented" and "of great complexity", and defended all the steps she'd taken to "take decisions in accordance with the law and with maximum legal security".
Speaking afterwards, Irene Montero, spokersperson for Podemos, whose deputies on the Board were the only to oppose today's decision, said that all members of Congress should be able to carry out their responsibilities "out of respect for the voters", and that in any case such a decision should have been taken by the court instead. Despite everything, Montero said they accept the decision and party sources say it won't accept their relationship with PSOE in terms of negotiations to form a government.