Former Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy to Be Investigated by Andorran Justice for Alleged Coercion

The Andorran justice will investigate former Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy and the members of his former administration Cristóbal Montoro, Jorge Fernández Díaz and Francisco Martínez for alleged coercion against the Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA). The organization that filed the lawsuit, the Institute of Human Rights of Andorra (IDHA), claims that the former Spanish government threatened to shut down the Andorran bank if it did not provide them with politically-useful information and when the bank refused it, Spain put its threat into action by reporting alleged money-laundering activities to the US Treasury Department, which acted swiftly.

According to the private prosecution, the coercion and threats to the Bank took place during an official visit of Rajoy and Montoro to Andorra in January 2015, when they met with the head of the Andorran government, Toni Martí and other ministers.

The Institute of Human Rights of Andorra (IDHA) claims that the visit was intended to obtain information on Catalan pro-independence politicians. The Andorran justice will investigate all the offenses they are accused of by the private prosecution.

In another case of May and June 2014, it was stated that four Spanish police officers had threatened, coerced and extorted three BPA executives in an attempt to extract information on alleged bank accounts of Catalan pro-independence politicians under the threat that the “bank could end up being blocked from activity,” which is what eventually happened.

Spain’s Attorney General Dolores Delgado (PSOE) Says the Supreme Kangaroo Court Trial against the Catalan Pro-Independence Leaders Over the Referendum Was an Example of “Legality”

The former Minister of Justice of PSOE in the last legislature and new Spain’s Attorney General, Dolores Delgado, affirmed on Monday during the opening ceremony of the judicial year, presided over by King Felipe VI, that the trial of the pro-independence leaders was “a criminal trial of special significance at all levels” where the various legal operators involved “have set an example of institutional normalcy and commitment to duty and legality.”

According to Delgado, the Public Prosecutor’s Office is an institution “close” to the citizens and “a decisive pillar in the defense of legality and democracy and the rule of law. The vocation for public service has been what encouraged the work of prosecutors during 2019,” she said (despite being a politicized institution that has proven to be one of the arms of the repression against the Catalans).

Delgado said that the trial of the pro-independence leaders was held with the additional “guarantee” of “enhanced advertising” because it was broadcast “streaming” through television and radio.

She recalled that the sentence stated that “the facts of the case constituted a crime of sedition and an aggravated crime of embezzlement of public money” and concluded that they had been undertaken “in medial competition” so that the embezzlement could be considered the means “to commit sedition.”

“This culminated a criminal process of special importance at all levels, where the various legal operators involved have set an example of institutional normalcy and commitment to duty and legality,” she concluded.

No reference was made to the flight of King Emeritus Juan Carlos to a country without an extradition treaty with Switzerland or to investigations into his alleged irregular businesses.

Judge Keeps Suspension of Open Prison Regime for Jailed Catalan Leaders Junqueras, Rull, Turull, Romeva and Sànchez

The judge of the 5th Court of Prisons has decided to maintain once again the suspension of the open prison regime for Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva and Josep Rull until the Supreme Court resolves the appeals filed by the prosecution against the classification of the political prisoners. The judge has again rejected the appeals filed by the defense.

In a statement, the judge said that the arguments of the defense are the same as those already used in the appeal filed against the first ruling on July 28, in which he suspended the execution of the open regime. That appeal was answered in the ruling of August 11. On August 19, the same court upheld the open prison regime but insisted that the suspension should be maintained pending the Supreme Court ruling.

This decision comes after Spanish prosecutors requested the suspension of the lowest security prison regime for seven of the 9 political prisoners: Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull, and Jordi Turull.

Another judge decided to maintain the open prison regime for jailed Catalan leaders Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassa until the Supreme Court makes a final decision on the prosecutor’s requests.

A final decision on the Catalan political prisoners’ jail regime will still have to be made by the Supreme Court for the nine political prisoners in the next few months.

Trial of 2017 Barcelona and Cambrils Terror Attacks

The trial of the 2017 Barcelona and Cambrils terror attacks is due to start in the upcoming months at Spain’s National Court. Three suspects will be tried for terrorism, but not murder.

During the pre-trial procedures, the court said there was not enough evidence to attribute a direct role to the three men in the deaths of the victims who died in the attacks in the Catalan capital and the nearby seaside town.

Mohamed Houli Chemlal and Driss Oukabir are accused of belonging to a terrorist organization, making and using explosives, while Said Ben Iazza is accused of collaborating with a terrorist organization. Mohamed Houli Chemlal and Driss Oukabir have been in preventive detention since August 2017, while Said Ben Iazza has been in custody since September of the same year.

Spain’s public prosecutor requests a 41-year sentence for Houli for allegedly being involved in planning the attacks and preparing the bombs. The Catalan government, acting as private prosecutor, requests 44 years for him, and the Barcelona local council, 95. Yet, they are not being accused of murder due to not having been directly involved in the incident, although the Catalan executive has made clear this might change after the trial starts.

For Driss Oukabir, brother of one of the terrorists shot dead by the police, the public prosecutor requests 36 years behind bars, and for the third accused, Said Ben Iazza, an 8-year sentence.

The Spanish government still refuses to carry out an independent investigation into the attacks, though there are concerns regarding alleged links between the secret services and the suspects.

The Catalan Government to Seek Negotiations in Brussels if Madrid Denies Self-Determination

Catalan President Quim Torra announced during an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN) his intention of seeking negotiations with the EU if Spain continues denying the Catalans their right-to self-determination. It comes after “finding” that conversations with Madrid so far has only translated into “photos.”

“It is enough to deceive us. But are they willing to negotiate self-determination? If not, we will negotiate in Brussels and we will not waste any more time.”

The President affirms that his administration will only meet with the PSOE and Podemos government if they write on a paper the conditions for a referendum and amnesty for the political prisoners. “If we don’t see it on a paper, we will not go to the negotiating table again, and we will go to Europe instead” he warned. In this line, the head of government urges Madrid to answer whether or not it is “willing” to negotiate self-determination.

“Have we come to the conclusion that it is impossible for a pro-independence activist to be judged with state neutrality? And have we concluded that they are about to disqualify a president for displaying a banner calling for freedom of expression? The same will happen with the dialogue then, and we will only find negotiation outside the [Spanish] state,” he asserted.

Unity

Torra asks pro-independence forces to achieve a programmatic agreement on self-determination. “What I expect from the parties is a clarification in their electoral programs on how we can move forward towards the Catalan republic,” he explained. According to the President, it is necessary to “clarify” the commitment to “exercise the right to self-determination again.”

Unionism

The President also asked the Catalan unionism to make its own self-criticism with proposals on how to deal with the current situation: “How do they plan to address the fact that the state cares very little or nothing about the funds that correspond to Catalonia?” he asked.

Elections

Spain’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Catalan president Quim Torra’s disqualification on September 17. If the judges confirm the disqualification ruled by the Spanish high court in Catalonia (TSJC), Torra would be ousted from his position.

The President affirmed last year that he would call for elections before being disqualified, which could happen in the next few weeks. It remains unknown whether he has changed his mind due to the Covid-19 health crisis.

The Spanish Government and the Prosecutor’s Office Break Dialogue by Suspending the Open Prison Regime for Seven Catalan Political Prisoners

Between Tuesday and Thursday, two courts suspended the open prison regime for the Catalan political prisoners Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Jordi Sànchez, Quim Forn, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Turull and Josep Rull. They were all forced to re-enter prison.

This decision came after the public prosecutor’s office, under the Spanish government’s control, appealed against allowing them to benefit from the open prison regime because according to the prosecutor, giving them this category creates “a sense of impunity.”

The judges’ sudden decision confirmed the impossibility of dialogue with the state. From now on, they will not be able to have either the open prison regime or the 100.2 regime, so they will not be able to go out to work either.

During the election campaign Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez affirmed he was controlling the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Due to lack of interest or fear of a crisis among prosecutors, there has not been any change in trend in relation to the pro-independence leaders in comparison with the previous administration.

Reactions in the pro-independence camp

Catalan president Quim Torra said that it was an act of “vengeance” and warned the Spanish government that it must “demonstrate a desire to end hostilities against the independence movement” for dialogue to be able to take place.

Catalan Vice-President, Pere Aragonès, accused the Spanish government of “rupturing” talks and warned that negotiations were not possible without amnesty.

Jailed Catalan leader Jordi Sànchez: “It’s time to stop giving them votes,” he said, referring to ERC’s support of the Spanish government.

Jailed Catalan leader Jordi Cuixart: “We do not want an individual solution for each of us. We want an end to repression, amnesty and a political solution to the political conflict. You have no obligation to obey unjust laws. You must disobey as many unjust laws as necessary.”

Jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras: “They are afraid of us because they know that they will not beat us at the polls. That is why they want to exercise influence through imprisonment and repression and forced exile, because they cannot exert influence through social and parliamentary channels,” he said.

Jailed Catalan leader Quim Forn said that every act of repression makes them, the political prisoners, stronger.

Jailed Catalan leader Josep Rull warned that the Supreme Court has had to “scrap its own rule of law” and reinterpret prison law to jail them again.

Jailed Catalan leader Jordi Turull called for unity between pro-independence forces.

The Spanish Supreme Court ruling on the Catalan political prisoners last October does not establish any clause that inmates must serve a given percentage of the sentence before accessing leave permits. However, the high court has suddenly declared itself competent to decide on this matter meaning the repression against the Catalan political prisoners and the pro-independence movement is not going to lessen in the foreseeable future.

What Neutral Judiciaries Never Do in Democracies: The President of the General Council of the Spanish Judiciary (CGPJ) Publicly Speaks Against the Catalan Pro-Independence Movement and International Observers

On Tuesday, the President of the Spanish Supreme Court and the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Carlos Lesmes, defended the actions of the judiciary against the Catalan pro-independence movement in the judicial forum of the Madrid Bar Association. He defined it as the “challenge of Catalan institutions that seek to promote the unilateral independence of this part of the national territory by violating the mandates of our constitution.”

According to Lesmes, the judiciary faced campaigns by the pro-independence movement intended to discredit it. “I want to remember campaigns of genuine defamation aimed very specifically at the judiciary, which was described as Franco’s or fascist justice that did not recognize or guarantee human rights,” he said.

Lesmes also defended the 2019 independence trial led by Judge Manuel Marchena, who considered it to be “full of guarantees.” He said “the process had met all the procedural guarantees,” despite the fact that a number of prestigious human right organizations contradicted him and called for the immediate release of the Catalan political prisoners.

He also criticized the fact that international observers wanted to attend the trial. “They wanted to put the suspicion that that Francoist court would make a trial without any guarantees,” he said and defended, as an example, the fact that the Supreme Court made a live online broadcast of the trial.

Official tweet from the Spanish Judiciary: “Regarding the independence challenge, the president of the #TS [Supreme Court] has highlighted the work of judges and magistrates in a situation of special significance for democracy in Spain. Justice responded with the necessary firmness.”

These statements by the highest authority of the Spanish judiciary aroused criticism and accusations from the pro-independence camp.

President Torra: “There is no ‘challenge,’ there are democrats; there is no ‘firmness,’ there is revenge.”

Jailed Catalan leader Jordi Turull: “We guarantee you a just trial and then we will shoot you. Preparing the atmosphere again for the judicial decisions that must come towards independentists, which are not few.”

Jailed Catalan leader Jordi Cuixart: “They do not hide: it was a Trial at Democracy, a State Trial against the independentists at the cost of condemning fundamental rights. See you at the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] in Strasbourg!”

Catalan Political Prisoners Granted 3rd Degree Category Status, Lowest Prison Category

On Tuesday, the Generalitat (Catalan government) ratified the 3rd degree category status for all the Catalan political prisoners. The “semi-liberty” regime means they can leave prison on weekends, but continue to spend weeknights behind bars.

They were locked behind bars during a 2 year long pre-trial detention before being sentenced last October to serve prison terms of 9 to 13 years by Spain’s Supreme Court, an unfair decision that caused social unrest across the country.

On July 2, the prison boards proposed the 3rd degree status for the nine jailed Catalan leaders: Carme Forcadell, Dolors Bassa, Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez. This was ratified by the Catalan justice department on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the final decision rests with the Spanish Supreme Court. The Prosecutor’s Office has already announced that it will appeal. Awaiting the court’s final decision, the jailed Catalan leaders will continue enjoying the third degree status.

Minister of the Presidency, Meritxell Budó, said on this matter: “I could tell them that it is good news that they have given the third degree to the prisoners, but they should be released.”

Jailed Catalan leader Raül Romeva: “Third degree is just another way to continue to pay a 12-year prison sentence and disqualification.”

Romeva: “Tonight I will spend my 875th night in prison. Tomorrow, the 876th. And so on, because the third degree status is just another way to continue serving a sentence of 12 years in prison and disqualification. Freedom is not the third degree, but it is amnesty. “

It’s worth mention that the third degree (“semi-liberty”) regime is not freedom. The jailed Catalan leaders are political prisoners who should not have been sent to prison in the first place, as several international human rights organizations have repeatedly said.

Newspaper El Confidencial Reveals the Existence of a Secret Document that Implicates Spain King’s Emeritus Juan Carlos I with the Management of an Instrumental Company to Hide €64.8 Million from Saudi Arabia

On Tuesday, newspaper El Confidencial announced that it had access to a private document signed by Spain’s King’s emeritus, Juan Carlos I, which implicates him in the management of an “offshore” structure used to “hide” €64.8 million euros from Saudi Arabia. In the three documents, Juan Carlos I appears as the first beneficiary of the funds of the Panamanian society, the Lucum Foundation. His son and current King appears as second beneficiary.

The documents show that the Lucum Foundation was created in Panama on July 31, 2008, by a Swiss financial manager, Arturo Fasana, and the lawyer Dante Canonica. Fasana became the president, and Canonica secretary.

The Lucum Foundation was created to act as a front for an account in Switzerland at the Mirabaud bank that received “a donation of €64.8 million made by the King of Saudi Arabia to the King of Spain.”

On March 10, 2011, the Swiss lawyer and Arturo Fasana established the internal regulations by which it would be governed. The new statutes nullified “any previous regime” of the company and appointed Juan Carlos I, King of Spain (Juan Carlos Alfonso Víctor María de Borbón y Borbón) as true owner of the foundation, born on January 5, 1938 in Rome, Italy, meaning that the €64.8 million donation by Saudi Arabia was now property of the Spanish monarch, according to the secret documents. The monarch enjoyed full rights to “freely dispose of the assets of the foundation during his lifetime without any limitation.”

The documents also reveal that if Juan Carlos I died, the money would be under the control of the “second beneficiary,” the current King Felipe VI, “Prince Felipe of Bourbon and Greece, Prince of Asturias, born on January 30, 1968 in Madrid.”

“Following the death of the first beneficiary, the second beneficiary will have the right to dispose of all the assets of the foundation, without any limitation,” the document states.

The conditions for accessing the money
There were some conditions required for Spain’s King Felipe V to access the money from the foundation. According to the documents, the current head of state had to comply the stipulations in his father’s will that the funds that remained after his death be used to “guarantee the maintenance of all members of the Spanish royal family, in particular, from SM Queen Sofía of Spain, to S.A.R. the Infanta Elena de Borbón y Grecia, Duchess of Lugo, and her children born or to be born, of S.A.R. the Infanta Cristina de Borbón y Grecia, Duchess of Palma of Mallorca, and her children born or to be born.”

In other words, in practice, the entire royal family and even possible new members, such as future children of the infantas, appeared as beneficiaries of the account in Switzerland.

Dissolution in 2012
The foundation was dissolved in September 2012. By then, the King Emeritus had only spent a small part of the €64.8 million ($100 million at the time) that he had received from Saudi Arabia as an alleged donation. The monarch transferred the remaining money to his then lover, Corinna Larsen, and closed the Panamanian structure.

Catalan Interior Ministry Announces that 50 Catalan Police Officers (Mossos) Are Under Investigation for Alleged Irregularities and Violence, but only One Officer Has Been Suspended

On Monday, the Catalan Interior Ministry presented an audit to assess possible police irregularities and announced that 50 Catalan police officers (Mossos) were under investigation for their alleged violence during the protests against the sentencing of jailed Catalan pro-independence leaders last October.

The officers under investigation are being tried in 34 different proceedings. Human rights organizations denounced the excessive use of force by the Catalan and Spanish police during the protests.

Catalan Interior Minister, Miquel Buch, said that there were 877 demonstrations in Catalonia following the Supreme Court ruling. He added that there were “violent episodes” during 20% of these protests. The protests left around 600 people injured, mostly unarmed, peaceful civilians.

Despite the condemnations of police violence by human rights organizations, Eduard Sallent, the head of Catalonia’s police, Mossos, who has been involved in controversies often, defended how the officers dealt with the protests, stressing that their attitude was “mostly passive and defensive.”

For now, only one officer has been suspended, according to Sallent.

The presentation of the audit became mired in controversy because not all media organizations were notified about the event and some journalists were not allowed to attend it despite the fact that there was space inside the Egara auditorium. ERC and CUP deputies also denounced that the parliamentary group that is part of the Interior Committee was not allowed to attend the press conference.

There has been complete secrecy of the Mossos on the audit and alleged irregularities in the last few months. Little information has been released and the presentation of the document earlier this week has raised many questions. Awaiting the outcome of all the investigations currently underway, Catalan society expects openness and more transparency from a police force that is expected to protect all citizens equally regardless of their political affiliation and ethnicity.