FIVE newly-elected Catalan MPs who have been in prison for between 14 and 19 months will be allowed to attend the opening sessions of the new Spanish Congress and Senate next week.

Former vice-president Oriol Junqueras, activist Jordi Sanchez and former ministers Jordi Turull and Josep Rull, who won congressional seats in last month’s Spanish general election, will be sworn in on Tuesday.

Another former minister, Raul Romeva, will take his seat in the Senate the same day.

However, judges yesterday turned down their request to be released to start their new jobs in parliament, pending the verdicts in their trial.

All are being tried for their part in the October 2017 independence


Their lawyers said they should be allowed to exercise their rights as political representatives and if they were not allowed, the right of the

voters to representation would also be violated .

Catalan Government spokeswoman Meritxell Budó said images of the politicians being sworn in before

being taken back to jail were an

indication that they are “political prisoners.”

The judges’ ruling came as a group of more than 150 academics from around the world penned an open letter criticising the repression of rights in Spain.

“We affirm our commitment to democratic principles and practice,” said the group, quoting the Council of Europe’s Declaration on Higher Education and Democratic Culture: Citizenship, Human Rights and Civic Responsibility.

“We, the academic community, consider that the constant violation of civil rights in Catalonia is threatening the foundations of democracy in this country. The signs of democratic involution, such as the violence exerted on October 1 against people waiting

to vote, are becoming increasingly evident.”

The group – including representatives from several Scottish universities – said their jailing had thrown into crisis the separation of powers between the state and the judiciary, “which is one of the pillars on which the rule of law is based”.

They said: “Democracy is based on the recognition and defence of inalienable basic rights, including the right to dissent publicly.

“Judicialisation of politics, violence and repression have been the response from the Spanish state to the demands of the Catalan people, instead of the dialogue necessary for any negotiation.

“We have thus witnessed a number of acts perpetrated by the Spanish institutional powers that do not befit the rule of law of a democratic state and are in breach of fundamental principles of international law.”