Spain Accused of Spying on Catalans

The “SOURGUM” malicious software package has been used to spy on Catalan citizens, according to Microsoft. The firm says that its intelligence center MSTIC has found out that “the Israeli private-sector actor has been hired by governments in order to spy on over 100 people around the world, including politicians, human rights activists, journalists, academics, embassy workers, and political dissidents.”

Exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and the president of the Catalan cultural organization Òmnium Jordi Cuixart are among the victims. “The Spanish state violates the right to privacy: it is obvious: they know everything about us,” says Cuixart.

The Catalan government has accused the Spanish government of spying on Catalans


President Aragonès: “Afterwards they get angry when they are put at the same level as Turkey in terms of human rights.”

Vice-President Jordi Puigneró: “Controlling Catalans, a curious ‘reconciliation’ agenda led by the Spanish executive.”

This revelation comes a year after The Guardian and El País revealed that the phones of Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent and other pro-independence activists were targeted using the Pegasus spyware that experts say is only sold to governments to track criminals and terrorists.

Spain’s Supreme Court Rejects Precautionary Annulment of Pardons for Catalan leaders

On Tuesday, the Spanish Supreme Court rejected the request from the far-right party Vox and the neoliberal party Ciudadanos (C’s) to annul the pardons for nine Catalan leaders as a precautionary measure while their appeals are assessed. Thus, the contentious administrative chamber ruled out for now ordering the reimprisonment of the nine pro-independence leaders.

The court believes that annulling the pardons as a precautionary measure could lead to “harmful and irreversible situations that could potentially violate the rights of the Catalan leaders,” arguing that the court could end up endorsing the pardons. Therefore, the court concluded that, “in assessing the conflict of interests, the request to suspend the pardons as a precaution pending a final decision is not acceptable.”

The court, however, has not ruled yet on the legitimacy of Ciudadanos (C’s) and Vox’s appeals against the pardons because this issue is not part of the resolution of precautionary measures, as stated by the Spanish state attorney. There are many doubts among jurists as to whether the parties are entitled to file appeals on pardons. For this reason, the appeal of C’s was presented by three MPs who were in the Parliament of Catalonia during the pro-independence push in 2017.

The Spanish Government Wants to Enforce Dangerous Reforms which Will Change the Country’s National Security Laws

The Spanish government (PSOE-UP) is planning to reform a law that would allow them to mobilize all adult citizens from Spain in case of a serious crisis. According to the newspaper El País, any adult would have to obey the rules set up by the Spanish Security Council to perform “social tasks.” If the law passes the government will be able to seize almost everything, they will be able to seize property such as houses and companies. They will also be able to seize citizens’ bank accounts and potentially spread misinformation via the media.

This reform is based on Article 30 of the Spanish Constitution, which states that “the Spaniards have the duty and the right to defend Spain.” The “social tasks” would be regulated by the obsolete article that defended compulsory military service, which was suspended in 2001, which states that “the duties of citizens may be regulated in cases of serious risk, catastrophe, or public crisis.” According to the document, the President would also be able to declare a state of emergency without the approval of Congress.

These dangerous reforms could be used by the far-right in the future to install an authoritarian government and quell any form of dissent, which could potentially bring the country back to Francoism times. This could happen soon since according to recent polls, the conservative PP and the far-right Vox will get an absolute majority in the next Spanish election in two years.

Spain’s Court of Auditors Claims Millions of Euros from 40 Former Catalan Officials

On Tuesday, the conservative Spanish Court of Auditors claimed 5.4 million euros as financial guarantees from some 40 former Catalan government officials for allegedly promoting independence abroad from 2011 to 2017. These financial guarantees are additional to others previously requested by the same court.

In total, the auditing body claims from former president Artur Mas and former finance minister Andreu Mas-Colell 2.8 million euros, as well as 1.9 million euros from former president Carles Puigdemont and former vice president Oriol Junqueras. All this corresponds to allegedly irregular expenses in the framework of the promotion of the process of independence around the world.

The official most affected by this case is the former Secretary General of Diplocat, a semipublic consortium aimed at fostering Catalonia’s interests abroad, Albert Royo, who faces a claim of 3.6 million euros.

Former foreign affairs minister Raül Romeva faces 2.1 million euros and former government’s spokesperson Francesc Homs 2.9 million euros, while auditors Mireia Vidal and Rosa Vidal 3.1 million and 1.8 million, respectively.

As for the rest, including former secretaries general and several government delegates abroad, they face lower quantities, though still huge.

The assets of all the former officials affected by this case will be seized if they aren’t able to pay the financial guarantees within the next two weeks.

The victims’ lawyers described it as an “arbitrary procedure.” Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, denounced the procedure as a “mockery” and stated that he had never felt such “helplessness” before.

NOTE: The Spanish Court of Auditors is not formed by judges as other courts, but mostly by politicians, including former ministers, who were appointed by the conservative political party PP during prior administrations.

Dead former official requested to pay 22,725 euros

Maryse Olivé, former official of the government of Catalonia in France, who died in 2017, has been requested to pay 22,725 euros. The Court of Auditors now wants her daughter, Chantal Olivé, to pay for it, though she has not been accused of any crime or irregularity.

Exiled President and MEP Carles Puigdemont will take this case to Belgian justice

“We will use all mechanisms to demand responsibility for this action. A complaint or a lawsuit. We will spare no effort, because it is clearly an abuse,” said Puigdemont’s lawyer Boye.

“Puigdemont’s residence is currently fixed in Waterloo, Belgium, meaning he will suffer the consequences of this court ruling there. Thus, he will have to bring the case to Belgian justice to find a solution to this abusive action by the Court of Auditors,” added the lawyer.

33 Nobel Prize winners against Court of Auditors’ case

33 Nobel Prize winners including Joseph Stiglitz, Gorge Akerlof, Robert Aumann, Angus Deaton, Esther Duflo, and Eugene Fama have shown their support for former finance minister Andreu Mas-Colell and have described the action of the Court of Auditors against him as unfair.

The Spanish Government Grants Pardons for 9 Jailed Catalan Leaders the Day after the Council of Europe Demanded the Liberation of Catalan Political Prisoners, the Return of Exiles, and the End of Repression

On Tuesday, the Spanish government granted partial and reversible pardons for the nine jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart, Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa, Jordi Sànchez, Joaquim Forn, Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, and Raül Romeva in response to international pressure. It came a day after the Council of Europe demanded the liberation of Catalan political prisoners, the withdrawal of extradition orders against exiles, and the end of repression.

The pardons are partial, meaning that the nine leaders are still barred from holding public office for nearly a decade, and reversible in the sense that they will be suspended if the leaders commit a “serious crime” in the coming years or if any of the prisoners exercise the fundamental rights that landed them in prison in the first place. In the cases of Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, this was holding a peaceful demonstration.

Council of Europe

On Monday, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe approved a report by its Committee on Legal Affairs on the situation of political leaders behind bars in Spain and Turkey by 70 votes in favor, 28 against, and 12 abstentions. They demanded the release of the Catalan political prisoners, the withdrawal of the extradition orders against exiles, among others, and the end of repression. They also overturned one by one and by a large majority the amendments of Spain’s PSOE and PP representatives who wanted to reduce the report’s critical content. Spanish efforts to water down the report failed.

The document approved by the Council of Europe is also important because it can be used as a precedent in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Political prisoners have already begun bringing appeals against their prison sentences for weeks. They expect the Strasbourg verdict to result in the annulation of their sentences, which could be a major blow to Spanish justice.

Pardons not a solution to the conflict

The pardons granted for nine jailed Catalan leaders on Tuesday are not a realistic solution to the ongoing conflict. There are still exiles and over 3,300 Catalans currently enduring judicial proceedings, including officials, and thousands of activists and normal people across the country. Thus, the conflict is expected to continue until their situation is resolved and the demands of an astonishing majority of 80% of Catalans, demanding amnesty and self-determination, are heard.

Political Prisoner Jordi Cuixart Case Affects “Rights of the Whole of European Society”

On Tuesday, the Catalan cultural organization Òmnium Cultural held an event to explain the recent decision of its jailed President, Jordi Cuixart, to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). He is currently serving nine years in prison after being found guilty of sedition for participating in a peaceful demonstration a few days before the 2017 independence referendum.

“The Spanish state has misused its power to harm a political adversary. There has been a use of the powers of the State to judicially prosecute political dissent. The right to demonstrate should not be limited by political opression. The objective was not to apply the law, but to find a pretext to keep Cuixart away from the protests and weaken Òmnium Cultural,” said the lawyer Olivier Peter.

Olivier predicts a “defeat for the State, invoking international pressure.” He also referred to the votes of Juan Antonio Xiol and María Luisa Balaguer, judges on Spain’s Constitutional Court, who stated that the prison sentence by the Supreme Court violated Cuixart’s right to assembly and personal and ideological freedom. He also believes that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will resolve his client’s case “rapidly.”

“Cuixart’s case will have effects on the fundamental rights of the whole of European society. He was convicted of sedition for exercising the right to demonstrate and for exercising freedom of expression after a trial full of irregularities, and therefore, we are facing an unprecedented case. He was imprisoned and convicted for exercising fundamental rights,” said the lawyer.

“There will be either a condemnation of Spain or a condemnation of democracy,” said the Vice-president of Òmnium, Marcel Mauri. “The case of Cuixart is the case of democracy, and it is essential to continue working for self-determination,” he added.

The event was attended by Ed Donovan, advisor to the United Nations Rapporteur for Human Rights Defenders; Masha Chichchenkova, Coordinator of Protection to Europe of Front Line Defenders; Giada Negri from the European Civic Forum; the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Jody Williams, from the United States; the president of PEN International, Jennifer Clement, from Mexico, and Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the World Organization Against Torture, from Geneva.

Spain’s General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) Rules that Justification of Francoism Is Protected by Freedom of Expression

On Monday, the plenary of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the governing body of Spain’s justice system, showed their support with 15 votes in favor and 6 against, for a report prepared by judges Roser Bach and Wenceslao Olea, ruling that justification of Francoism is protected by freedom of expression.

The report also questions whether Francisco Franco’s foundation can be outlawed for justifying or defending the dictatorship of Franco and for the incitement of hatred, and violence against the victims of the 1936 coup d’etat.

“A defense of Francoism is the expression of ideas that, despite being contrary to the values of the 1978 Spanish Constitution, are protected by freedom of expression if there is not an additional element of humiliation for the victims,” the report says.

This is a position very different from that taken by Germany, in which justification of Nazism or denying the Holocaust is punishable with up to five years in prison to honor the memory of the victims.

The judiciary also proposes that the definition of a victim of the Civil War and the dictatorship have a “strictly administrative” nature, because “historical truth is not part of the criminal process.”

Spain’s Right-Wing and Far-Right Launch a Massive Propaganda Campaign Against Pardons for Jailed Catalan Leaders

Spain’s right-wing and far-right are preparing a legal and propaganda battle against a decision by the Spanish government to grant pardons for jailed Catalan leaders over the 2017 push for independence. Such a pardon would serve the Spanish executive by improving the international image of Spain, as well as to help perpetuate it in power, but it would not resolve the ongoing crisis, which requires amnesty and self-determination.

The right-wing PP and the far-right Vox have announced that they will take the pardons to the Spanish Supreme Court when they are granted. In parallel, PP will also collect signatures and file motions in all town councils across the country to symbolically reject the pardons. Both measures were already used by the right-wing against the Statue of Autonomy of Catalonia in 2006. This statue was backed by most Catalans and Spain’s Congress, but was partially nullified after PP took it to the Constitutional Court. This began Catalonia’s latest push for independence.

This time, the Supreme Court has also aligned with the right-wing, ruling that there are no arguments for the public utility for the government to grant pardons, which have been described as “self-pardons,” given that the beneficiaries would be members of parties that currently support Spain’s coalition government (PSOE-UP), who in turn are the ones who have to decide on the pardons. Most judges of the Supreme Court were appointed by past conservative administrations.

The Government’s Stability

The pardons would threaten the stability of the government of Spain’s PM Sánchez. However, he doesn’t have any other option since he still needs the support of pro-independence forces to keep in power.

Sánchez’s position within his on party, PSOE, is also at stakes. A number of well-known leaders have aligned with the right-wing and far-right against the pardons. Former PM Felipe González and the territorial leaders Guillermo Fernández Vara, in Extremadura, and Emiliano García Paje, in Castilla-La Mancha, have publicly opposed the measure and threaten Sanchez’s stability. They have all often embraced far-right stances against Catalonia, which has often given them good results in past elections.

A group of members of the party has also submitted a letter to the Commission of Guarantees asking it to ensure compliance with the party’s statutes and try to prevent the Spanish government from pardoning political prisoners without first consulting the party members. They threaten to take legal action if their demands are not met.

With the help of the Supreme Court, the Spanish nationalists are repeating the same mistakes that led to the rise of the independence movement with the Statute, which is still ongoing. Pedro Sánchez will have to decide what answer he wants to give now to the Catalan issue and what alliances he wants to embrace in the coming years.

As for the right-wing and far-right, their strategy of misinformation, hatred, and confrontation is likely to bear results. According to recent polls, they could win the next Spanish election with the possibility of getting an absolute majority.

Who Are Catalonia’s New Ministers and President?

Catalonia’s Coalition Government

President and Ministries Led by ERC

President – Pere Aragonès is a law graduate with a masters in economic history. He joined the youth section of ERC in 1998 and was elected as Catalan MP in 2006 at the age of 24. He was vice president and economy and treasury minister in the former government of Quim Torra. He became acting President when Torra was disqualified from office in 2020.

Presidency – Laura Vilagrà has a degree in political science and administration from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), where she specialized in tourism and commercial promotion. She became a Catalan MP at the age of 30 and was Mayor of Sanpedor, in Bages county, for several years. Vilagrà was the second person on the ERC’s electoral list on February 14.

Education – Josep González Cambray is an industrial technical engineer with a marketing degree. He was one of the people in charge of bringing early childhood, primary and secondary school students back to the classroom for in-person learning during the 2020-2021 academic year.

Climate Action – Teresa Jordà has a degree in modern and contemporary history from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She was agriculture minister under former president Quim Torra. She will continue in the department that will now also focus on combatting climate change. Jordà was mayor of Ripoll from 2003 to 2011 before becoming an MP in Spain’s Congress.

Feminism – Tània Verge is a professor of political and social sciences at Pompeu Fabra University and was one of the 2017 independence referendum electoral board members. She was acquitted after being accused of disobedience by the Spanish justice system. She is also a professor of political and social sciences at UPF, where she is also director of the Equality Unit.

Interior – Joan Ignasi Elena was Mayor of Vilanova i la Geltrú and ex-coordinator of the National Pact for the referendum. Elena was a member of PSC until 2014, when he resigned over disagreements over the right to self-determination of Catalonia.

Culture – Natàlia Garriga has a law degree from the University of Barcelona and a master’s degree in management from the School of Public Administration of Catalonia. She has worked as a professor at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC). In 2007, she became the manager of the Catalan Institute of Cultural Enterprises, a position she held until 2016. She is also a close confidant of the new president, having worked with Aragonès as director of vice-presidency services of the Catalan government.

Business and labour – Roger Torrent has a degree in political science from the University of Barcelona. He was Parliament Speaker during the past legislature. He will have the task of addressing the economic and social reconstruction needed as a result of the financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ministries led by Junts

Vice President and Minister for Digital Policies and Infrastructures – Jordi Puigneró is an engineer specializing in information and technology and is considered close to party leader Carles Puigdemont as well as the General Secretary and person overseeing the negotiations, Jordi Sànchez. He studied at the University of Surrey and worked in Frankfurt as an ICT engineer in the computer area of a German bank.

Economy – Jaume Giró is the former Caixabank CEO. He has also been in charge of the financial institution’s foundation, Fundació La Caixa. He was the only CaixaBank board member who opposed the transfer of the headquarters from Barcelona to Valencia in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum. In 2020, he launched a reputation and strategy consulting firm, Giró Consultants, and was also the editor for an online news outlet, The New Barcelona Post.

Foreign Affairs and Transparency – Victòria Alsina has a PhD in political and social sciences from Barcelona’s Pompeu Fabra University, with a degree in management and public innovation from ESADE. She is a professor and the academic director of the Center for Science and Urban Progress at New York University and chief researcher of the Governance Laboratory (The GovLab) at the same university. Alsina is also the former delegate for the Catalan government in the United States and the current co-coordinator of the Catalonia 2022 working group.

Research and Universities – Gemma Geis is a doctor in law as well as being a professor at the University of Girona. She is a close confidant of former president Carles Puigdemont. She will lead a ministry that is being revived after 15 years. It was created in the remodeling of the current department of business, which now includes labor.

Health – Josep Maria Argimon has a degree in medicine and a doctorate from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), with a specialization in preventive medicine and public health from Barcelona’s Bellvitge Hospital, as well a diploma in epidemiology and statistics from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, a master’s degree in evidence-based healthcare from Oxford University and a master’s in epidemiology and health planning from the University of Wales. He has held the post of General Secretary of Public Health in Catalonia’s health system and will now lead the health ministry.

Social Rights – Violant Cervera has a degree in Hispanic philology from the University of Lleida and a postgraduate degree in information technology for non-computer scientists from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). She served as an MP between 2012 and 2017 first with Convergència (CiU) and then with electoral alliance Junts pel Sí. She will be in charge of a new department that comes from the reorganization of the previous department of labor, social affairs, and families.

Justice – Lourdes Ciuró has a degree in law from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She was MP for CIU in the Spanish parliament. She has been the head of the Junts municipal group in the city of Sabadell since 2019.


Catalonia: ERC-Junts Agreement on a Pro-Independence Coalition Government

The deal between ERC and Junts on a pro-independence coalition government is now a reality after almost three months of disputes and a decisive six-way summit between the pro-independence forces ERC, Junts, CUP, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), Òmnium Cultural, and the Council for the Republic, and a subsequent three-way meeting between the three pro-independence parties, pushing towards a deal. These are the new government structure and the key points of the coalition government deal:

Government Structure

Ministries led by ERC

Presidency

Interior

Education

Feminism

Culture

Business and labor 

Climate Action

Ministries led by Junts (will include vice-president)

Economy

Health

Foreign Affairs

Justice

Digital Policies

Research and Universities

Social Rights

Key Points of the Coalition Government Deal:

1- Dialogue and Peaceful Confrontation

The Catalan government will hold negotiations with Spain in an attempt to face and resolve the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain and to put an end to the repression and political persecution of the independence camp. In parallel, both parties call for working firmly to be able to lay out a democratic confrontation [with Spain] that will lead to independence as the Catalan Republic.

2- Referendum

“Only a self-determination referendum held with Spain’s approval can replace the democratic mandate of the October 1 [2017 independence vote] of working to make a Catalan Republic a reality.” Both parties are also committed to joining forces to achieve an amnesty for the political prisoners, exiles, and those activists who have been enduring judicial procedures for their pro-independence activities since the 2010s.

3- International Mediation

The Catalan government will seek “the possible intervention of European and international institutions to achieve an agreement for a referendum.” For that purpose, both parties are committed to “building a favorable public opinion abroad.” They will also coordinate the defense in the judicial cases affecting the 2017 referendum organizers, both in Spain and internationally.

4- Coordination, Leadership, and Roadmap for Independence

A collegiate leadership of the pro-independence movement in coordination with the Catalan Council for the Republic will be created. The three pro-independence parties ERC, Junts, CUP, and the two main pro-independence organizations, the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), and Òmnium Cultural will participate from this group. They will all have the task of creating a new roadmap for independence and to prepare and execute mass civil disobedience until the Catalan Republic is achieved. The leadership could be integrated into the Council for the Republic once it has been reformed to represent all the pro-independence forces.

5- Vote of Confidence and Confrontation with Spain in 2023

A vote of confidence on the Catalan government will take place in parliament in the mid-term in 2023. The pro-independence party CUP demanded a vote to make sure they are able to put an end to the legislature if ERC has not complied with agreements on social issues and confrontation with Spain by then. According to parties, there should be a confrontation on social issues starting with the beginning of the legislature and a confrontation for independence in 2023 if negotiations with the state fail. CUP also opens the door to joining the government if the agreements are fulfilled.

6- Mechanism to Prevent Infighting

Junts and ERC will establish a mechanism to restore and preserve the damaged trust between the two to anticipate possible flare-ups like those that took place during the past legislature. To this end, several coordination committees have been created at different levels that will meet periodically to monitor day-to-day issues, both in Parliament and in the government, as well as between the parties.

7- Monitoring of  Deal

A group will be created to monitor the fulfillment of the deal on a regular basis.