Spain's Constitutional Court has unanimously decided to suspend next Tuesday's planned Catalan parliamentary session for the presidential investiture of Carles Puigdemont, unless the candidate attends in person, for which he would have to obtain "authorization from the judge" conducting the case for which his arrest is sought.
In its decision announced on Saturday night, the Court says that it is "essential" that Puigdemont "personally" attends the session in the Catalan chamber and also rules out the possibility of him delegating his vote from abroad.
"The debate and the vote on the investiture of Carles Puigdemont as a candidate to the presidency of Catalonia cannot take place by telematic means nor through the substitution by another parliamentary deputy", says the resolution.
The Spanish cabinet agreed on Friday to present an appeal against the candidature of Puigdemont in Tuesday's investiture session, even though Spain's consultative body the Council of State had earlier issued a report, passed unanimously, warning that there was no "basis to contest" his candidature. Spanish vice president Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría argued that Puigdemont could not be a candidate as he is not present in Spanish territory and is wanted by the justice system.
In this regard, the Constitutional Court makes it clear that "the investiture of the candidate without the pertinent judicial authorization will not be able to proceed, even if he appears personally in the chamber, if the warrant for his arrest and entry into prison remains in force."
The judges also observe that "members of parliament facing warrants for arrest and entry into prison will not be able to delegate their votes to other members of parliament".
Warning to the Board
The Court declares that any action or resolution that contravenes the precautionary measures adopted would be null and void, warning members of the Catalan Parliament's Board of their responsibilities, including possible criminal charges, if they disobey the suspension.
With regard to the Spanish government's appeal, the Constitutional Court accepts that the JuntsxCat parliamentary deputies involved, including Puigdemont, have the right to defend their rights and legitimate interests individually. For this reason, says the Court, it has postponed its decision on whether or not to process the Spanish government's appeal, in order to resolve the doubts brought up by the JuntsxCat deputies. The Court has allowed a ten day period to present appeals.
As well as the Council of State's negative response to the Spanish Government's appeal, the report presented by the Constitutional Court's legal counsel presented on Saturday morning also argued that the appeal was not admissible. The Court's lawyers also argued that Puigdemont's candidature and investiture would be legal, as long as the candidate was personally present at the parliamentary session.
Accepting only a part of this advice, the Court took its decision after five and a half hours of debate, concluding on Saturday night at 9pm.