Spain's top court says separatist politician stays in prison

Spain's top court says separatist politician stays in prison
An estelada or independence flag, hangs from a tree as a policeman walks past the entrance of Lledoners prison, where former Catalan vice president Oriol Junqueras is currently serving a prison sentence in Sant Joan de Vilatorrada, near Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. In a potentially stinging reversal for Spanish justice authorities, the European Union's top court ruled that the former Catalan official serving a prison sentence for his role in a banned independence referendum two years ago had the right to parliamentary immunity when he was on trial. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s Supreme Court has ruled that an imprisoned Catalan politician will remain behind bars despite a European court ruling that his election to the European Parliament gave him immunity.

A lawyer had requested Oriol Junqueras’ release so the separatist leader could travel and take his seat in the EU legislature.

The Spanish Supreme Court said Thursday that Junqueras should not go free since he is serving a prison term after being found guilty of sedition and misuse of public funds in October.

The EU’s top court ruled last month that Junqueras acquired immunity from prosecution when he was elected to the European Parliament in May. The Court of Justice said Spanish authorities should have released Junqueras from custody so he could take his seat.

But the European court said Spain’s Supreme Court would have to decide how to apply its ruling given that Junqueras’ status had since changed from that of a suspect in custody to convicted felon.