SPAIN’s Supreme Court has said jailed Catalan independence leader Oriol Junqueras will not be released from prison to claim his seat as a MEP, in defiance of a higher court ruling that he was entitled to immunity.

Junqueras is serving a 13-year prison sentence for his part in the 2017 Catalan independence referendum and had been in preventative detention when he was sentenced last October.

Europe’s highest court The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that he – along with exiled former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and ex-minister Toni Comin – had immunity from the day the European election results were declared in May.

READ MORE: Fresh calls to free Catalan indy leader Oriol Junqueras

However, the Supreme Court said that fact that he had been sentenced – albeit five months after he was elected – barred Junqueras from enjoying parliamentary immunity. It wrote: “There are no grounds to grant his freedom.”

Junqueras’s party, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), described it as “Spanish injustice”, and accused the court of violating his rights and disobeying international institutions.

Puigdemont, who will take his seat in the European Parliament next week, tweeted: “Very serious mistake, again, from Spain ... Oriol @junqueras is a Member of the European Parliament … [what] can be disqualified is a State which allows such blatant disobedience of European courts.”

Slovenian MEP Milan Brglez, added: “It seems that after today the question #Junqueras vs Spain has inevitably become the issue of EP vs Spanish judiciary/shadowy ruling by law.”

READ MORE: Junqueras should be released, Spain's attorney general recommends

Junqueras has already been elected president of the European Free Alliance (EFA) in the European Parliament, and his colleague, Corsican MEP Francois Alfonsi, said: “It is a disgrace that he has been prevented from taking up his democratic mandate for so long ... The behaviour of certain elements of the Spanish state throughout this process has been shameful. The Spanish authorities must now respect the decision of the European Court of Justice and allow Oriol Junqueras to take up his seat without delay.”

Scots lawyer Aamer Anwar, who represents former Catalan minister Clara Ponsati, who is fighting a European arrest Warrant for her part in the indyref, told VilaWeb Spain was acting illegally because he was chosen by the people of Catalonia, and added: “In Spain there is a group of hypocrites, because they say that the law must be obeyed but they do not.”

He said Ponsati, who was third on the list of Spanish MEPs, could also be headed to Strasbourg after Brexit: “This will directly mean that there will be more MEP seats in Spain, and Clara Ponsatí would have one.”