The Spanish government refuses to dismiss the ministers behind the massive espionage of Catalans

The Spanish government has refused to dismiss the ministers who were behind the massive espionage of Catalan pro-independence leaders, lawyers, activists, and the general public. Instead, it has dismissed the head of the intelligence service (CNI), Paz Esteban, who was acting upon the orders of the Spanish executive office. The move comes a few days after Esteban admitted that authorities had spied on Catalan pro-independence leaders.

The decision intended as a smokescreen for the big scandal was taken during a regular meeting, under the guise that it was a replacement.

Catalan government: Esteban’s dismissal “not enough”

According to Patrícia Plaja, a spokesperson for the Catalan government, “The change at the head of the Spanish intelligence services does not resolve everything and does not bring an end to the issue. Anyone who believed it was mistaken. It is not enough.” She also called for an investigation to find out who allowed the spying, who ordered it, and who knew about it.”

Minister Robles did not share the reason for Esteban’s removal and thanked her for her work as a director of the intelligence services. The defense minister has also received calls from pro-independence parties to step down, but maintains that she will continue to “serve Spain” as she has done for the last four years,” and that she will act guided by “respect for the rule of law” and “empathy.”

Catalangate

Catalangate is the name given by the Citizen Lab, a University of Toronto-based research group that reports on high-tech human rights abuses, to its investigation into the espionage against several Catalan pro-independence politicians, activists, and their close associates. It is “the largest forensically documented cluster of such attacks and infections on record,” the Yorker magazine.

Over 30 international organizations say that Spanish intelligence agency fails to comply with democratic standards

The use of Pegasus spyware against Europeans, Catalan leaders, human right defenders, lawyers, activists, and the general public has caused over 30 international human rights and civil liberties organizations to have expressed their rejection of the practice.

The organizations said that digital espionage is not “legal or democratic” and an independent investigation is needed to provide clarity.

“The software intercepts all the contents of the device; all apps used and when; as well as geolocation data,” explained Anaïs Franquesa, a human rights lawyer for Irídia.

The groups also called for proper regulation of Spain’s National Intelligence Center (CNI), criticizing the current rules as “vague, indefinite,” and falling short of “the standards of international human rights law.”

Gervanosi, the director of the international institute for nonviolent action NovAct, issued a warning about the widespread use of this technology. “The use of this technology is a flagrant violation of the right to privacy, brings a great deal of vulnerability to victims and involves the violation of the right to [legal] defense and professional secrecy in certain cases.”

Violating EU regulation, the European Commission met with the far-right pro-Spain organization Catalan Civil Society

The EU commissioner of Justice, Didier Reynders, met with the far-right organization Catalan Civil Society (SCC) in December 2021 without being registered in the Transparency Register of the EU, which is a violation of EU regulations.

The EU internal code of conduct prohibits commissioners from meeting with organizations that are not registered.

The code of conduct

“Commissioners and members of their cabinet may only meet with those organizations or autonomous individuals that are registered in the Transparency Register (…) to the extent that they fall within its scope,” says Article 7. of code of conduct of the community executive.

The Transparency Register is a database that includes; stakeholders, organizations, associations, groups, and self-employed people who carry out activities to influence EU policy and decision-making.

Revealed: Massive Espionage of Catalans by Spain

Over 65 Catalan pro-independence leaders, activists and lawyers, as well as thousands of citizens have been massively spied upon by Spain, using the Israeli Pegasus spyware, according to revelations disclosed by the prestigious Canadian NGO, The Citizen Lab.

The attack on Catalan leaders is the largest in the world using the Pegasus spyware, which can only be bought by states. An important fact, which has not left anyone indifferent.

John Scott-Railton, a senior investigator at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab high-tech human rights abuses research group: “There is solid circumstantial evidence to suggest that the perpetrators of the espionage with Pegasus spyware is one or more entities in the Spanish government.”

List of some of the leaders affected by the espionage

Presidents

– Catalan President Pere Aragonès

– Former President Carles Puigdemont

– Former President Quim Torra

– Former President Artur Mas

Members of the European Parliament

– Clara Ponsatí (Junts)

– Antoni Comín (Junts)

– Diana Riba (ERC)

– Jordi Solé (ERC)

Catalan Civil Society

– Jordi Sànchez, former President of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC)

– Elisenda Paluzie, President of the ANC.

– Sònia Urpí, board member of the ANC.

– Jordi Cuixart, former President of Òmnium Cultural.

– Marcel Mauri, former Vice-President of Òmnium Cultural.

– Jordi Bosch, board member of Òmnium Cultural.

– Elena Jiménez, board member of Òmnium Cultural.

Lawyers

Gonzalo Boye, representing Puigdemont as well as many Catalan pro-independence figures.

– Andreu Van den Eynde, representing leaders such as Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Roger Torrent, and Ernest Maragall.

– Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, a lawyer who represented Carles Puigdemont.

Speakers

– Roger Torrent, former Parliament speaker.

– The current speaker, Laura Borràs.

Parties

– Esquerra Republicana (ERC): 12 members targeted

– Junts: 11 members targeted

– CUP: 4 members targeted.

– PDeCAT: 3 members targeted.

Collateral damage

The mass espionage of Catalan leaders, lawyers, and civil society figures has also affected thousands of ordinary citizens.

Poll: Over 71% of Catalan Pro-Independence Activists Are Willing to Participate in Acts of Peaceful Civil Disobedience

71.3% of pro-independence activists are willing to participate in acts of peaceful civil disobedience to achieve the independence of Catalonia, according to a survey published by the Catalonia Global Institute and carried out by GESOP.

The study indicates the majority of individuals of various backgrounds are willing to participate in non-violent civil disobedience movements for independence. Nevertheless, there are differences in opinions between parties.

The CUP voters are the most supportive (86%), followed by Junts per Catalunya (72.9%), and Esquerra Republicana (60%). By age, 76.9% of the respondents 16 to 29 years old are in favor, a percentage that falls to 71.7% among those 30 to 44 years old, and 69.8% among those 45 to 59 years old, and 69% among those 60 years old or older.

The survey of the Catalonia Global Institute was based in a sample of 1603 territorially segmented people. The survey directly asked: “Would you be willing to participate in a movement of peaceful civil disobedience to achieve independence?”


The Ghent Court of Appeal will Announce the Final Decision on the Extradition of Catalan Countries’ Rapper Valtònyc on May 17

The Ghent Court of Appeal in Belgium will announce the final decision on the extradition of Catalan Countries’ rapper Valtònyc on May 17, after re-examining his case.

The same court had already rejected his extradition last December, arguing that the crimes for which he was convicted in Spain – inciting terrorism, insults to the crown, and threats – did not fit within the Belgian penal code, an essential situation for the execution of an extradition order. However, the Belgian Court of Cassation scheduled another trial after an appeal was filed by the prosecutors, who represent Spain’s interests. The reason being to analyze whether insults to the Spanish crown would be the same crime as insults to deputies, ministers, and officials.

Valtònyc : “I think it is interesting that a court of the European Union is debating what is happening in Spain in relation to its freedom of expression.”

The rapper’s case already motivated the annulment by the Constitutional Court of a law of 1847 that protected the Belgian king from insults. This happened after the Ghent Court of Appeal asked the Belgian Constitutional Court whether the law of Lèse-majesté was constitutional, arguing that it did not respect freedom of expression.

In the hypothetical case that Belgian justice agrees on the extradition of Valtonyc, Spain could only make him comply with the sentence for the crime of insults to the crown.

The Council of Europe Denounces Spain’s Inaction against Corruption

The Council of Europe denounced Spain’s inaction against corruption. This is stated in a report carried out by the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), which was made public earlier this week.

The report shows that the Spanish government has not complied with any of the nineteen recommendations made by GRECO to improve the transparency and functioning of the administration or to prevent corruption. Only seven have been partially fulfilled.

GRECO found especially disappointing the lack of progress in building an “ethical infrastructure” within police forces. More specifically, it pointed out that the Civil Guard made “some progress,” but did not see any “concrete improvement” in the case of the National Police.

On the political front, GRECO denounced the failure by the state to take steps to strengthen transparency among its advisers and to establish a strategy to mitigate the risks of corruption in the case of senior officials.

Additionally, GRECO did not see any progress in the recommendation to ensure that the Transparency and Good Governance Council has “adequate independence, authority, and resources to function effectively.”

The report notes that the state has also made no progress in establishing rules on the relationship between senior officials and lobbies or in recommending the expansion of public information on the assets of senior officials. Moreover, the state has also neglected the overseeing of possible conflicts of interest.

In regard to gauging, GRECO denounced that the recommendation to amend this “special process” has not been implemented so as not to “obstruct” the proceedings in cases of high-ranking officials accused of corruption.

The High Court of England and Wales Rules against Spain’s Former King Juan Carlos’ Immunity

The High Court of England and Wales ruled that former king of Spain Juan Carlos no longer has immunity and can be judged on British territory. The court argued that he is no longer a “sovereign” or “head of state” following his abdication in 2014.

The High Court (based in London) will now move forward with the former king’s ex-lover Corinna (Larsen) zu Sayn-Wittgenstein’s harassment allegations. The businesswoman filed a lawsuit against the former king in 2021 for “defamation, threats, and follow-ups” from 2012 to the present. She also denounced attempts by the Spanish Secret Services to enter her house and place a tracking beacon on her car.

Larsen said she suffered from “anxiety, humiliation, and moral stigma.” This led to the depression that isolated her from her kids, friends, and business partners.

“If the case goes further, the Defendant will have an opportunity to defend himself against any claims made towards him. Ultimately, the Court will hear evidence and make a decision after a trial,” the ruling reads.

The defendant, Juan Carlos, cited sovereign immunity, as a member of the Spanish royal household, to evade scrutiny. However, the court rejected his status.

“The fact that the Defendant has been granted a special constitutional status in Spain does not make him a sovereign,” the ruling reads. “Since he abdicated in 2014, the Defendant is not the head of state of Spain,” the court stated.

In the past few years, Spain’s former king Juan Carlos has been involved in several cases of corruption and money laundering.

Exiled Catalan Leader Clara Ponsatí: “Sacrifices Are Needed to Achieve Independence”

Catalan leader and former minister Clara Ponsatí said during an interview for the Spanish public broadcaster TVE that “sacrifices to achieve independence are needed, including withstanding Spanish extreme violence.” Additionally, she clarified that she is against any sort of violence.

The exiled Catalan leader also considered it as “paternalistic” that political leaders said, in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum, that the implementation of independence was not going to be pursued, arguing that “there could be deaths due to Spanish violence.”

Ponsatí defended that dying for a cause “is not a strange situation” in the course of history. “In all the great causes there have been important sacrifices and everyone must know what one is willing to sacrifice.” When asked directly if she would be willing to die for the independence of Catalonia, she said that “obviously she would try to avoid it by all means” but added that “it is not a strange situation” in the course of history.

As for the “negotiations” with Spain, Ponsatí said that they don’t exist and it is just a “fantasy.”

The Spanish Army Had a Plan to Intervene in Catalonia in the Aftermath of the 2017 Independence Referendum

Earlier this week, Fernando Alejandre, a general of Spain’s army, revealed that the army had a plan to intervene in Catalonia in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum.

In an interview with the newspaper ABC, Alejandre affirmed that the former Minister of Defense, María Dolores Cospedal, ordered him to prepare a plan to intervene in Catalonia in case independence was implemented. According to the former general, the plan was not activated because the declaration of independence lasted for only “12” seconds before its suspension.  

“The plan was aimed at supporting Spanish police forces, which included diverse actions, from logistical support to the protection of sensitive facilities and infrastructure,” said the former general.  According to him, this plan “was going to be a good starting point.” On this basis, “this would be an operation that could be adjusted in each comment, depending on how the situation evolved.”

The former general also affirmed that the Army “had fairly reliable information on the situation, including the capabilities of the Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), and the situation of the Catalan police (Mossos d’Esquadra).”

Alejandre also added that Cospedal was “concerned that there was not the slightest leak of what we were going to do” but that “she agreed that we should be prepared.” According to him, the then minister asked him to “keep the circle even closer, so that I could write a draft of the directive myself. The military did so and she signed it a couple of days later.”