EXILED former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, his former deputy Oriol Junqueras and Toni Comin – one of his ex-ministers who is also in self-imposed exile –were all elected as MEPs as pro-independence parties dominated in the European elections in Catalonia.

Their success overshadowed that of Pedro Sanchez, whose Socialists topped the poll across Spain.

Junqueras, who is on trial for his role in the 2017 independence referendum and is currently imprisoned, was last week sworn in as an MP in the Spanish Congress, along with four other jailed pro-indy leaders, one of whom – Raul Romeva – took his seat in the Senate the same day.

The five political prisoners were suspended from parliament after taking their seats, and it is as yet unclear if he will be able to take his European seat.

Removing an elected politician would be a politically sensitive task, but the European Parliament has said it is up to Spain’s Electoral Board (JEC) to decide if he is on the final list of MEPs that must be submitted to Strasbourg.

Supreme Court judges, who are currently trying 12 pro-indy figures, including Junqueras, will have to decide whether or not grant him temporary freedom to collect the documentation for his MEP role.

They allowed the political prisoners to attend the Spanish parliament but passed the buck about suspending them to the new Speaker, Meritxell Batet. After a few days of to-ing and fro-ing, she announced their suspension under a regulation stating that an individual on trial for rebellion or terrorism and in “preventative prison” could be suspended temporarily until a verdict was reached.

It is not known if that rule would apply to the European Parliament.

Junqueras, below, who leads the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), tweeted: “Thank you, thank you and thank you! We dye the country of freedom and social justice … We leave the prison and go to Europe. Which force is bigger than our image coming out of Soto [del Real prison], crossing the peninsula and entering the European Parliament with our colleagues?”

The National:

Puigdemont and Comin are freeto travel anywhere in Europe – except Spain – after courts earlier dismissed attempts by Spain to have them arrested under European Arrest Warrants.

However, they must still collect their credentials from and take an oath before the JEC before becoming MEPs at the beginning of July – and both would face arrest should they enter Spain, where domestic warrants are still in place.

Puigdemont yesterday told journalists in Barcelona by videolink from Belgium that he believes the Spanish government “wants to win in [legal] chambers what they have lost in the ballots”.

He said: “We are ready for that battle. We have precedents of legal-political battles and we know how to win them.”

Puigdemont said Spain would oppose his presence in the European Parliament, but that he knew how to dodge the obstacles.

Puigdemont said winning a seat in Europe showed the strength of his project from exile, adding that his presence – along with the of Junqueras – in the parliament would send a powerful message to Europe and would help to solve the Catalan political conflict.

With the elections over, Catalan President Quim Torra yesterday reinstated a banner calling for the political prisoners’ release, which he had been ordered to remove during election campaigning.

Torra had defied the order, arguing that the yellow ribbon-adorned banner, reading “Freedom for the political prisoners and exiles” was not political and that the order was an infringement of freedom of expression.

ERC, meanwhile, performed well in Barcelona’s municipal election,with Ernest Maragall likely to become mayor in the new minority council.

His and former mayor Ada Colau’s Barcelona in Common party share the same number of councillors, but Maragall could take office with support from Together for Catalonia (JxCat) members.