The Spanish Constitutional Court To Decide Whether To Admit Catalan Political Prisoners’ Convictions’ Appeals On May 6

The Constitutional Court has called for a session on May 6 to decide, amongst other matters, whether to admit writs of appeal by seven of the nine Catalan political prisoners: Jordi Turull, Jordi Sànchez, Josep Rull, Jordi Cuixart, Dolors Bassa, Carme Forcadell and Joaquim Forn.

The Catalan leaders are appealing against their conviction last October for sedition and misuse of public funds. This appeal, which is expected to be admitted but put on standby, is the preliminary step that will enable the political prisoners to appeal their convictions to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg – a process that usually takes between 4 and 7 years.

The nine leaders were convicted last October for their role in the 2017 independence referendum. Their sentences prompted massive social unrest across the country, which ended with hundreds of detentions and prosecutions.

The two political prisoners who will not be part of the May hearing, Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva, appealed their sentences last year.

Spain’s King Felipe VI Renounces his Inheritance from his Father in an Attempt to Save the Monarchy

On Monday, Spain’s King Felipe VI renounced his inheritance from his father and stripped the former King Juan Carlos of his £175,000-a-year royal income in order to save himself amid a growing social repulsion against the monarchy. The calls for his abdication following a finance scandal served as a catalyst for the new king to take drastic action.

Swiss prosecutors are investigating an offshore account allegedly operated for Felipe VI’s father Juan Carlos, 82, which is suspected to have received €88 million from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah in 2008. According to the newspaper La Tribune de Genève, prosecutors believe the fund could be linked to kickback payments after the former monarch helped to broker business deals with Saudi Arabia while still in power.

On Saturday, March 14, The Telegraph reported that Felipe was named as a beneficiary of an offshore fund that controls the Swiss account with an alleged 65 million euro gift ($72 million USD) from Saudi Arabia, given to his father when he was on the throne. In 2012, around $65 million (€57 million) was transferred from this account to Corinna Larsen, a Monaco-based businesswoman and ex-lover of Juan Carlos.

Larsen told the investigators in 2018 that the money was a donation from the former king after a recording emerged in which she allegedly claimed she was a frontwoman Liaison for his portfolio abroad for his assets abroad.

The reports also say that she will file a lawsuit against the former head of Spanish intelligence, Félix Sanz Roldán, for allegedly organizing an intimidation campaign against her continually, from 2012, when he learned of her relationship with the former king.

The Mossos Confirm that the Spanish Police Officer Shot at least Twice at Roger Español

The Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police) has concluded that the rubber bullet that seriously injured Roger Español, who lost an eye, in Barcelona on October 1st, 2017, was the second shot by a Spanish police officer in that area. This report was presented before the judge at the case open by the Court of Instruction No. 7 of Barcelona and was ratified by the authors. The report also identifies the officer involved in the two shootings, which coincides with a private expert report commissioned by the defense of Español and the Iridia Center for the defense of human rights. Specifically, it was agent UC563.

According to judicial sources, the agents have explained to the judge that for the identification of the gunman in question they have made two analyses: one of clothing and other of traceability.

The dress analysis has identified the gunman who shot Español by several elements that differentiate him from his companions: he does not wear shin guards, has the ammunition bag open and wears gloves.

The recordings and photographs show two consecutive sequences: in the first you see the officer pointing at Español just as he is about to hit a flat object lying on the ground towards the police line. The Mossos say that the officer shot at him at this time, although they do not specify if it was only a projectile or a rubber bullet. After that, Español returned to the sidewalk.

In the second sequence, the identified gunman makes the same movement and disappears from view behind containers on the same sidewalk where Español is located. After several moves, he shoots for the second time. In this case, it was a rubber bullet that hit Español.  

The fact that Español was shot at more than once reinforces the thesis that this was not a random response, as the now-identified officer stated earlier this week in court. This would allow him to be tried at the felony of intentional injury and not recklessness.

Scandal: Carlos Vidal, a Member of the Spanish Electoral Authority (JEC) who Participated in the Vote to Disqualify the President of the Generalitat, Quim Torra, and MEP Oriol Junqueras, was a Member of PP Party Until a Few Weeks Before his Appointment

Carlos Vidal, one of the members of the Spanish Electoral Board (JEC) who voted to disqualify the President of the Generalitat, Quim Torra, and MEP Oriol Junqueras, was a member of the right-wing party PP until a few weeks before his appointment, InfoLibre informs.

When asked by InfoLibre, Vidal admits that he did not mention that he was a member of PP to members of the Congress because he no longer had a party membership. “Nothing should be mentioned,” he says. In addition, he says that he did not intend to abstain from voting on pro-independence politicians because he believes “there was no reason to do so.”

This information comes after the scandal of Andrés Betancor, another JEC member who worked as a C’s party advisor while also fulfilling his duties in the central electoral body. He participated in the exclusion of the candidature of Carles Puigdemont in the 2019 European elections and banned the nominations of exiled Catalan leaders Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí.

President Quim Torra, who has filed a lawsuit agaisnt Andrés Betancor for prevarication and election crime, has also spoken on the news about Carlos Vidal and the PP party in a tweet: “Everyone has the right to have their cause heard equally and publicly and within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court …” Art 47. Letter of Fundamental Rights EU. PP members judging us. How far Europe is!”

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to Assess Whether to Investigate Spain for Preventing Jailed Catalan Leaders from Having Access to EU Courts

On Monday, the President of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos, said that member states have “the obligation to facilitate all citizens’ access to the courts.” It was his response to MEP Diana Riba’s (ERC) question regarding the pitfalls that the Constitutional Court puts on the jailed Catalan leaders to prevent them from having access to the ECHR.

Sicilianos affirmed that the ECHR will investigate if such a demand is received. He added that there had already been precedents in cases where the prisoner’s access to the ECHR has been hampered. “The court will need to investigate and find out if there is a violation,” he said.

Last week it was revealed that Spain’s Constitutional Court had set a strategy of accepting all the appeals from the Catalan political prisoners to prevent them from having access to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR). This procedure was performed on around fifty appeals for protection filed by Catalan political prisoners against provisions of the Spanish Supreme Court. This kept these matters away from the Strasbourg court during the Independence trial and until the sedition sentence.

If the Constitutional Court had failed to accept all these appeals – only 1% are usually accepted — it would have allowed the defenses to subsequently report a human rights violation before the ECHR that could have been resolved, or at least accepted, before there was a ruling on the case. The Spanish High Court prevented this.

The Spanish Government Lowers Expectations for the Upcoming “Dialogue” with the Catalan Administration

The Spanish government started this week lowering any expectations for the upcoming “dialogue” between the Catalan and Spanish administrations. The Spanish executive said that it will “remain seated” at the table until a solution to the Catalan crisis is found, but emphasized that it will not occur any time soon. “No-one is expecting any results in the short term,” said Spokeswoman for the Spanish government María Jesús Montero on Tuesday. She also ruled out the use of a mediator, which was aimed at facilitating the success of the negotiations.

On Thursday, Catalan President Quim Torra and Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez continued lowering the expectations. They announced that the negotiating table over the Catalan crisis will kick off this month, but that it will be a long process that will not bring immediate results. Both leaders agreed that the first summit between cabinets in February will be chaired by both heads of government.

Spain’s PM Sánchez insisted that the negotiations will not “yield any results” in the short-term. He also spoke about the need to find a way out of the independence crisis through “solutions within the legal framework and with legal security.”

Sánchez said that the fact that Torra proposed a referendum shows “how far the stances of the both parties are from each other,” thus denying the possibility of such a vote for now. He also rejected the use of a mediator for the negotiations.

President Torra cast doubt on Madrid’s thinking about resolving the conflict: “We don’t know what the Spanish government’s proposal is.”

Torra insisted on the idea of self-determination, but revealed Sánchez’s response: “He answered that their stance remains the same: self-government [of Catalonia] within Spain’s constitution.”

“We are facing a long process, it won’t be easy, it will be complex, this is a path we have to walk,” added Torra.

The agreement on creating negotiations between the Spanish and Catalan governments aimed at solving the Catalan crisis was reached by ERC and PSOE in exchange for facilitating Sánchez’s investiture and the formation of a new government. Since then, the Spanish “Socialist” government has unilaterally broken the agreement several times. Last time was last week when the Spanish government said the dialogue would not start until after the Catalan elections, which are expected to take place between spring and autumn. Finally, Sánchez rectified this saying that the dialogue is due start this month.

Due to the negative attitude of the Spanish administration towards letting the Catalans decide their own future as enshrined in international law, it appears that the dialogue has no hope.

Catalan President Quim Torra Announces Snap Elections Once 2020 Budget Is Passed

On Wednesday, Catalan president Quim Torra announced that he will call a snap election after the 2020 Budget has been approved. The President made it clear that the government had broken down because of the loss of trust among its partners, Esquerra (ERC) and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat), following the decision of the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, to accept the “temporary” withdrawal of his seat as an MP on Monday.

President Torra (JxCat) accused ERC of a “lack of loyalty” and called on the pro-independence camp to “rebuild unity.” He added that before calling a snap election he wanted to approve the Budget and “explore whether Spain’s government has a true desire to enter dialogue and end repression.” He is due to meet Spain’s PM, Pedro Sánchez, in Barcelona on February 6.

ERC issued a statement saying it “respected” the president’s decision to call a snap election. They also said it was important to approve the budget and hold talks with Spain before ending the present term of office.

On Monday, Torra expressed outrage at the parliament’s Speaker, Roger Torrent (ERC), for revoking his MP’s status and thus rendering himself ineligible to vote in the chamber, even though he was still (being) recognized as president.

The President said that we were now facing a new “coup attempt,” and that “repression” had to be “fought” in order to defend the sovereignty of parliament.

“If we don’t face our challenges with solidarity and loyalty within the pro-independence movement, freedom will progressively grow more distant.” Torra urged the pro-independence movement to “re-build” unity through a snap election. “Citizens have to vote for new majorities.”

Trial of Catalan Police Leadership During the 2017 Independence Referendum Week 1, January 20, 21, 22 and 23

The trial of the Catalan police leadership during the 2017 independence referendum begun on Monday in Spain’s National Court. Former Catalan police (Mossos) chief Trapero, the former police director Pere Soler and the former secretary-general of the Catalan interior ministry César Puig are charged with rebellion, whilst former Catalan police superintendent Teresa Laplana is charged with sedition.

Former Catalan police chief Josep Lluís Trapero

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Trapero defended his actions during the 2017 independence bid, as well as the actions of other members of the former Catalan police leadership. He denied any cooperation with the independence bid, or any “close relationship” with the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

Trapero affirmed that the Mossos (Catalan police) didn’t facilitate the referendum and instead applied criteria of proportionality in the actions to not cause greater damage. The former police chief assured that it was “impossible to stop 2.3 million” people who were holding the referendum. “There were not sufficient officers.”

Trapero also said that he offered himself to arrest Catalan president Puigdemont if it was necessary.

Intendant Teresa Laplana

On Wednesday, Teresa Lapana assured that she was “not responsible” for the police operation at the Economy Ministry on September 20, 2017. She affirmed that her task that day was to “transmit Spain’s Civil Guard’s requests to her superiors.”

Laplana: “When I arrived [at the Economy Ministry] there were already a lot of people: around 700 and the number was increasing. There were all kinds of people of all ages, including families, and the attitude was peaceful.”

Laplana also said that she only talked to the former leader of the Catalan civil society organization ANC, Jordi Sànchez, because former police chief Trapero asked her to speak with him about the “detainees’ entry and departure” and also to help the judicial commission leave the building later that same day.

Former director of the Catalan police Pere Soler

On Thursday, Pere Soler explained that all human, material and budgetary resources were used to comply with court orders regarding the referendum. “The number of officers was increased by 800. The whole body of Mossos was mobilized like never before. We made a huge sacrifice.” The former director of the Mossos emphasized that “it was a joint operation” with other Spanish police forces.

Soler dismissed follow-up of Spanish officers as “false.” He said he knew that chief Trapero was against the referendum. “He told me that there could be a public order incident and that he wanted to report it to Minister Joaquim Forn.”

Soler also assured that the former Interior Minister Forn never gave him “instructions for the Mossos to support the referendum.”

Former Secretary-General of Interior Cèsar Puig

On Thursday, Cèsar Puig affirmed that he had no jurisdiction related to the independence referendum. “I had nothing to contribute to strategic or operational issues in relation to the referendum. I was responsible solely for managing resources to comply with court orders.”

Cèsar Puig was named Secretary-General of Interior in 2015 and was dismissed in 2017 in accordance with Article 155 (Spain’s direct rule) in Catalonia. “My role with the referendum was zero. The Government wanted to hold an agreed referendum, but I had no competence in this regard,” emphasized the former Secretary-General.

On the referendum, Puig reiterated that there was a “joint” operation with the Civil Guard and the National Police. He also admitted that he knew that former police chief Trapero and the Mossos were against the referendum.

Jailed Catalan Leader Oriol Junqueras Prepares an Appeal to the General Court of the European Union (EGC)

The defense of jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras is preparing an appeal in the General Court of the European Union (EGC) against the decision of the European Parliament to exclude him as Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Precautionary measures will be required for the EGC to suspend the decision of David Sassoli, President of the Euro-Chamber, and the court will have to determine whether to accept it within a few hours after the appeal is presented.

The General Court of the European Union (EGC) is a constituent Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It hears cases against institutions of the European Union by individuals and member states.

According to article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), any citizen can file an appeal against the acts of European institutions that directly affect him/her. The procedure for this appeal may take several months, but the precautionary measures will be pronounced immediately, a few hours after the petition has been registered. The EGC could accept or reject them. If they are accepted, the European Parliament will be obliged to recognize Junqueras as an MEP again.

The parallel route to the ECJ

In parallel with the appeal to the EGC, Junqueras’ defense will file an appeal against the Spanish Supreme Court’s decision to keep him in prison. If this move fails, Junqueras’ defense will appeal to the Spanish Constitutional Court for violation of his political and constitutional rights. The next and final step would be to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The EU ParliamentDecision to Recognize Jailed and Exiled Catalan Leaders, Junqueras, Puigdemont and Comín, Causes Political Turmoil

On Monday, the news that the exiled and jailed Catalan leaders Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Oriol Junqueras will be allowed to take up their seats as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) caused immediate political turmoil in Spain. The European Parliament officially announced that it will recognize the Catalan leaders as MEPs through a communique during the morning. This decision came after the European Court of Justice ruled on December 19 that the Catalans leaders have immunity.

While Catalan authorities celebrated the EU Parliament decision, the Spanish far-right and the right-wing, which had been attempting to prevent them from becoming MEPs, accused the EU Parliament of violating Spanish sovereignty and suggested that there had been an under the table agreement between the EU authorities and pro-independence forces, though no evidence was presented.

Regarding Spain’s Electoral Authority’s decision on barring Catalan President Torra from office and to veto Junqueras from becoming MEP despite the European Court of Justice immunity ruling, Torra said he was “proud that both the Catalan Parliament and the EU Parliament had disregarded Spain’s electoral Authority.”

Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, first tweeted a prompt “mission accomplished.” Later he demanded also the annulment of the trial over the 2017 independence referendum because “the trial shouldn’t have taken place due to Junqueras’ immunity.”

Junqueras’ lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, called for his client’s release: “Junqueras is an MEP. He has parliamentary immunity. He must be released to be able to go to the European Parliament.”

Spanish far-right and right-wing reaction

The three main unionist parties, Ciutadans (C’s), People’s Party (PP) and the far-right Vox asked the EU Parliament to revoke its decision recognizing the Catalan leaders as MEPs.

The spokesperson of the PP in the EU Parliament, Dolors Montserrat, accused the EU Parliament President, Sassoli, of an under the table agreement with those seeking Catalan independence. In a letter, Montserrat also recalled that the Spain’s Electoral Authority (JEC) ruled that Junqueras cannot be an MEP because he has been convicted by the Supreme Court. She also defended that the JEC is a “legitimate and competent” body in Spain.

The head of Cs’ delegation to the European Parliament, Luís Garicano, called on the chamber’s president, David Sassoli, to “revoke” and “reconsider” as well as to take into account the Spanish electoral authority veto. Garicano also announced that his party had already appealed the decision.

The head of the People’s Party in Spain, Pablo Casado, criticized the Socialist government’s “inaction” on the matter and called on Sassoli to “revoke his decision on Junqueras, who has been sentenced and barred from office for sedition and misuse of funds.” He also added that his party would “always defend Spanish institutions and respect for the law.”

The leader of the far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal, accused Brussels of “trampling over Spanish sovereignty” and said that “the enemies of Spain in Europe want to take advantage of us having a treacherous prime minister to weaken our nation further.”