MADRID (Reuters) – Five jailed Catalan separatists elected to parliament last month picked up their credentials as lawmakers on Monday amid high security after being granted temporary release from custody.
Flanked by plainclothes police and ushered through a tight cordon set up around the national assembly building, they were applauded in by about ten lawmakers from their parties – ERC and JxCat – and a Basque nationalist party.
The five are in detention while on trial for their involvement in Catalonia’s 2017 independence referendum and brief declaration of secession from Spain, which judicial authorities declared illegal.
The Supreme Court ruled they could collect their papers and also attend Tuesday’s opening parliamentary sessions before returning to prison.
Oriol Junqueras, Josep Rull, Jordi Turull and Jordi Sanchez won seats in the lower house in the April 28 national election while Raul Romeva was elected to the Senate.
“Today we have been able to leave prison … thanks to your votes… Your votes have made us free,” Junqueras said in a tweet.
They and seven other Catalan leaders face charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds, which they all deny. The trial is expected to last several months more.
Once they return to their cells in a high-security prison outside Madrid, the five lawmakers will face a choice – whether to give up their seats to a party colleague or risk being absent from what are likely to be closely contested votes, notably in a deeply fragmented lower house.
It is as yet unclear if they would be able to participate in any other parliamentary sessions.
Like all lawmakers, they were handed a briefcase marked with parliament’s logo. It contained an iPhone and a tablet which JxCat lawmaker Marta Borras said they would not be permitted to take back to jail with them.
(Reporting by Belen Carreno; Writing by Paul Day; Editing by Ingrid Melander and John Stonestreet)