Supporters of the Catalan separatist movement protested outside of the European Parliament in Strasbourg because pro-independence Members of European Parliament have been barred from taking their seats.
The demonstration came on Tuesday at the opening of the next term of parliament amidst other protests from British pro- and anti-Brexit parties.
Demonstrators held portraits of ousted Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont and waved the Catalan pro-independence ‘Estelada’ flags and banners, in protest of the decision that the now-elected MEP Puigdemont and his colleague Antoni Comín were barred from taking their parliamentary seats.
Mr Puigdemont and Mr Comín are living in exile in Brussels, Belgium, as they face arrest should they step foot on Spanish soil for their part in the ‘illegal’ Catalan independence referendum in 2017. Another separatist leader and elected MEP, Oriol Junqueras, is in detention in Spain and on trial.
The BBC reports that Puigdemont and Comín are not allowed to take their seats in the Strasbourg parliament because they failed to attend a mandatory swearing-in ceremony in Madrid, Spain, to pledge their allegiance to the country’s constitution.
Puigdemont faced difficulty running as MEP, with the Spanish electoral commission initially banning him because he did not live in Spain, with a Madrid court later overruling the decision.
After the May election, the former regional president attempted to enter the European Parliament building, but was allegedly stopped, with an EU spokesman telling POLITICO that only MEPs who have been named on the national lists could be accredited for entry.
Gonzalo Boye, Puigdemont’s lawyer, has said that he will take the case to the European Court of Justice.
During the region’s attempt to secede from Spain two years ago, the European Commission backed then-Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s move to take back power of Catalonia from the regional assembly.
Police brutality against voters and protestors was widely reported at the time of the referendum, with the European Union coming under criticism for its failure to condemn state violence against the citizens of an EU member-nation.