The Appalling Living Conditions of the Catalan Political Prisoners Limits their Right to Defense in the Ongoing Independence Trial

After nearly a month of the Independence Trial of the Catalan political prisoners, the bias in favor of the accusation shown by the court and the extreme living conditions of the prisoners is worrying the international community and the prisoners’ families, who believe their right to a proper defense has been violated. 

The longest session so far was when Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa, Meritxell Borràs, and Carles Mundó declared before the Spanish Supreme Court. It began at 10am and ended at 9.30pm, a long marathon of a session that seriously affected the prisoners, who ended it exhausted, which could violate their right to a defense.

The prisoners have a strict schedule; they are woken up at 6am by prison officials. On their days of trial, they are directly transferred by Spanish Civil Guard officers to the Spanish Supreme Court – without shower or breakfast time – in a trip that usually takes 45 minutes. Then the Spanish National police take custody of them, and the prisoners are sent to a room where they have to wait for over 30 minutes until the trial session begins. After the day-long trial session, they are sent back to their respective prisons in Madrid.

According to the families of the Catalan political prisoners and their lawyers, the worst part is the return to prison. When they get back their dinner is already cold, and they don’t have the means of warming it. After a quick dinner, they go straight to bed because it is already late and the next day they will have to wake up at six and face another long trial session, which tends to end in the evening.

This exhausting rhythm after nearly a month of trial is severely affecting the political prisoners, who on occasions only get 4 four hours sleep per night. In addition, they don’t have the possibility to prepare their defense with their lawyers after each session because they are directly transferred to prison, have dinner, go to their cells and prepare for the next day, get some sleep, and then face a new trial session.

At weekends however, they do have the possibility of meeting with their lawyers and receiving some visits. On some occasions, their families can also have communication with them at the Supreme Court for 10 minutes at the end of the session. 

Last week Jordi Cuixart’s defense team filed a formal protest before the court to be told in advance the complete calendar of sessions, to be able to prepare for the interrogations. In addition, the defense highlighted that the isolation of the prisoners also limits their freedom of communication with their clients and impedes their ability to prepare for the trial properly.

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List of Important Witnesses Independence Trial Upcoming Weeks

This is a list of some of the most important witnesses that will testify in the independence trial in the upcoming weeks:

Politicians

– Roger Torrent (ERC), President of the Catalan Parliament.

– Pere Aragonés (ERC), Catalan vice-president. 

– Jordi Puigneró (JxCat), Catalan digital policy minister. During the referendum, he was junior telecommunications minister. 

– José María Espejo (C’s), second deputy speaker of the Catalan Parliament.

-David Pérez (PSC), member of the Parliament’s executive board.  

– Josep Maria Jové (ERC), former second-in-command at the economy ministry, considered the organizer of the referendum.

– Xavier Trías (PDeCAT), Former Mayor of Barcelona.

– David Fernández (CUP), former Catalan MP.

– Luís Llach, former Catalan MP.

– Neus Lloveras, former president of the Associació de Municipis per la Independència (Association of Municipalities for Independence).

– Antonio Bayona, former head Parliament lawyer.

– Carles Viver, former Constitutional Court magistrate, considered to be the “legal architect” of the independence process.

Police

– Diego Pérez de los Cobos, a colonel in Spain’s Civil Guard. He was the coordinator of the large Spanish security operation mounted in response to the possibility of the 1st October 2017 referendum.

– Josep Lluis Trapero, former chief of Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra police.

– Pere Soler, former director of the Mossos. Accused of rebellion alongside Trapero. 

– Albert Battle, former director of the Mossos. He resigned two months before the referendum and was replaced by Soler.

– Teresa Laplana, Mossos superintendent. She is accused of sedition in the National Audience case. 

– Ferrán López, Mossos police commissioner. He substituted Trapero when he was removed from his post.

– Sebastián Trapote, chief of the Spanish National Police in Catalonia.

Media, associations, and citizens

– Joan Vallvé, vice-president of Òmnium Cultural, the Catalan cultural association.

– Núria Llorach, vice-president and acting president of the Catalan public broadcasting corporation, CCMA.

– Javier Pacheco and Camil Ros, secretaries in Catalunya of two of the major trade unions, CCOO and UGT respectively.

– José María Álvarez, secretary general of the UGT trade union.

– Around a hundred voters who took part in the referendum.

International

– MEP Ana Gomes

– MEP Ivo Vagl.

– Manon Masse, member of the Quebec parliament for the social-democratic Québec solidaire, who acted as an international observer for the referendum.

– Felix Von Gründberg, German MP.

– Andrej Hunko, German MP.

– Lars Aslan Rasmussen, Danish MP.

– Helena Catt, member of the International Election Expert Research Team. Also cited was her colleague, former Dutch prime minister Wim Kok, who died late last year.

– Paul Sinning, director of the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies.

 

 

International Trial Watch Warns of Irregularities in the Independence Trial

International Trial Watch, an organization which is monitoring the trial against the Catalan political prisoners over the 2017 referendum, warned on Monday that the Spanish Supreme Court hadn’t admitted “crucial” evidence about the Catalan leaders which would clearly undermine the defendant’s rights to a proper legal defense.

In a press release via Twitter, International Trial Watch has explained that the outcome of the past week will be presented by 6 observers: William Mozdzierz, member of the American Bar Association; Dominique Nogueres, president of the French League of Human Rights; Alexandre Faro, advocate and member of the International Federation of Human Rights; Frédéric Ureel, advocate and member of European Democracy Advocates; Fabio Marcelli, lawyer of the European Association Lawyers for Democracy & World Human Rights; and Javier Pérez Royo, professor of Constitutional Law of the University of Seville.

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➡ The accusations do not take into account that the actions of the defendants may be covered by fundamental rights. If so, it would not be possible at the same time that the accused had committed a crime.

The observers have remarked that the accusations “do not have in mind that the acts of the accusers could have violated their fundamental rights.” “If that were the case, it would not be possible at the same time that the accused had committed any crime,” they added.

The platform also warned that it would examine”procedural anomalies” related to the court not suspending the trial to incorporate documentation that the defenders do not dispose of and if the accusation may have “violated procedures.”

International Trial Watch has verified that the Supreme Court has not reserved a room for the observers, which has led “hours of queues” to the portal to access the room. In addition, they have remembered that on the first day of trial, far-right Vox sympathizers “organized the queue and distributed numbers of entry;” days later the police did it.

The observers have estimated that approximately 40 people can enter as public. For this reason, International Trial Watch has reiterated to the court the need to reserve places in the room for observers. 

 

Upcoming Protests against the Ongoing Trial of the Catalan Political Prisoners and Leaders over the 2017 Independence Referendum

February 16: Unitary Mass Demonstration in Barcelona

The first major event will be held in Barcelona on Wednesday, February 16,  four days after the start of the trial. The march will start at 5 pm at Spain Square and will follow the Gran Via to University Square. The organizers expect massive attendance, with numbers reaching historic levels. In order to guarantee a massive attendance, the ANC, Òmnium and other organizations will offer bus trips across Catalonia to anyone who wants to attend the demonstration.

February 21: General Strike

The organizers expect to be able to paralyze the whole country and this could also be the beginning of major permanent protests, which could paralyze the country indefinitely until the Catalan Republic is implemented and the Catalan political prisoners are released. The Catalan trade Union Intersindical -CSC has officially called for this strike, though it has the support of all pro-independence and some federal parties and organizations. According to the law, strikes for political purposes are illegal. For this reason, the Intersindical -CSC maintains that the strike is strictly for reasons related to labor: to protest against the labor reform of 2012, which will have its seventh anniversary on February 10; to claim a minimum salary of 1,200 euros per month; and to recover the social laws of the Parliament of Catalonia suspended by the Spanish Constitutional Court.

March 16: Unitary Demonstration in Madrid

 One month after the unitary demonstration in Barcelona, another will take place in Madrid. So, on March 16, independentists and some federalists will be mobilized in the same city where the former Catalan government is going to be judged over the 2017 independence referendum. The demonstration will start at 6 pm; the route has not yet been announced.

 Around the world

 These are just the main rallies in Spain. The pro-independence organization ANC’s international branches are also planning almost 30 protests in different European countries and even one in the US on February 12th, the day the trial against the Catalan political prisoners and leaders will begin.

 

 

 

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez’s Budget For Catalonia Violates the Third Additional Provision of the Statute of Catalonia

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez won’t fulfill his promise to invest in Catalonia in proportion to its economic importance,  a clear violation of the current legislation. His need to get the support of pro-independence parties for the approval of the Spanish Budget has not been sufficient for him to comply with the current law.

The Sánchez administration’s budget includes 2,051.38 million euros for Catalonia,  representing 16.8 % of investments throughout the State, far from the 19.2% of Catalan GDP. This comes after the Minister for Finance María Jesús Montero had announced that the Spanish government would comply with the third additional provision of the Statute of Catalonia, which states that Spanish investments in infrastructure must be equivalent to the size of the Catalan economy.

The Spanish Constitutional Court ruled out the obligation to comply with the aforementioned provision in 2010. Nevertheless, the Spanish government had vowed to comply with it in an attempt to get the support of Catalan pro-independence parties for the approval of the 2019 Spanish State General Budget. A goal that now seems to be impossible.

According to the Spanish government, their budget “complies with the Statute of Catalonia.” In fact, at 2 million euros – 90% for infrastructure – it is necessary to add an additional 200 million that is also allocated to Catalonia in compliance with a ruling of the Supreme Court of 2017 referring to the 2008 budget.  The high court considered that the money should have been included in the accounts of that year because they were already committed and forced the State to pay them.

ERC and PDeCAT made clear earlier last week their absolute opposition to the budget presented by the Spanish government last Friday, although both parties are still open to negotiating it. Apart from an increase on the budget for Catalonia, PDeCAT and ERC also demand a political solution for the right to self-determination of Catalonia and the release of the Catalan political prisoners in exchange for supporting the Spanish Budget.

Last week, exiled President Puigdemont set his own conditions for the approval of the budget: the creation of a dialogue table on the right to self-determination supervised by independent observers. Puigdemont announced his proposal publically after proposing it to the senior leadership of his PDeCAT party, which met with him in Waterloo, Belgium.”There are not today the conditions either for processing or for passing it,” he warned.

President Puigdemont: “In the current circumstances, the budget cannot be approved. We’ve enabled Mr. Sánchez to talk about a budget, but despite the calls and constant gestures, today, Pedro Sánchez’s government, with regard to the political conflict in Catalonia, has exactly the same policy as Rajoy’s government.”

Earlier last week, the “Socialist” government refused President Puigdemont’s proposal on the creation of a dialogue table on self-determination with international observers as well as a solution for the Catalan political prisoners.

Unless there are last-minute changes in the negotiations between the Spanish government and pro-independence parties, the 2019 Spanish General State Budget will be rejected by the Congress, leading to a more than probable snap election, which could radically change the current political panorama.

 

 

Spanish PM Sánchez will Approve the Draft Bill of the 2019 Spanish State General Budget Tomorrow Friday

Spanish PM Sánchez will approve the draft bill of the 2019 Spanish State General Budget in the next government Cabinet meeting on Friday to begin the procedure for parliamentary approval, though he doesn’t have yet the necessary support.

PM Sánchez assured in an interview earlier this week that the Budget will be approved: “Spain is going forward in improving social policy, economic growth, and the creation of quality jobs.”

Secretary of Organization of the PSOE José Luis Ábalos: “The only gestures they [the Budget] have are those aimed at improving the lives of all Spaniards, regardless of where they live.” Improvement of social measures and territorial investments will improve the situation of the communities. There are no other gestures,” Ábalos added.

ERC had demanded these measures in the last few days as well as a political solution for the Catalan crisis, and especially the political prisoners.

The Spanish government doesn’t have enough guaranteed votes for the approval of the Budget for now; however, they affirm they will negotiate it with all the parliamentary groups, including the independentists. The government also urged the PP and C’s to approve the Budget if they don’t want them to be dependent on pro-independence forces.

President Torra and his administration said on Wednesday that they won’t support the Budget if there is no offer on self-determination. On Monday, the president of the PDeCAT, David Bonvehí, said that his party will not allow the start of the parliamentary procedure for the approval of the budget if Spanish PM Sánchez Pedro Sánchez does not make a “serious” political offer for Catalonia. On the other hand, ERC said they won’t give a blank check, but they prefer to wait to see the Budget before making a final decision.

If the Spanish government fails to approve the 2019 budget, PM Sánchez would likely be forced to call for snap elections, which could dramatically change the current political situation. Recent polls give the far-right and right parties — Vox, C’s, and PP — an absolute majority in Congress which would likely be used to curtail freedoms and social rights.

A Report by Rights International Spain (RIS) and Other International Organizations on Human Rights Violations in Spain

Rights International Spain (RIS), an independent non-governmental organization, formed by experts in international law and dedicated to the promotion and defense of civil rights and liberties, highlights in one of its documents the condemnation of Spain by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In 2018 there were eight condemnations, for violations of rights similar to those committed in previous years. Other experts from UN agencies and the Council of Europe have also expressed their concerns about the repression suffered by the Catalan independence movement.

Condemnations

In 2018, the ECHR condemned Spain eight times for violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. The condemnations are about repeated violations of freedom of expression, the prohibition of torture, the right to a fair trial and an independent and impartial tribunal, and respect for family and private life.

In addition, the Council of Europe Anti-Corruption Group (GRECO) evaluated last January the degree of compliance by Spain with the recommendations issued after previous evaluations to prevent and combat the corruption of parliamentarians, judges, and prosecutors. GRECO observed that Spain had not applied or addressed any of the eleven recommendations contained in the last report, issued in 2014.

Earlier this year, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe addressed the Spanish Congress and Senate urging them to modify the current Citizen Security Law to eliminate all disproportionate interference in the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The Commissioner expressed concern about the broad and inaccurate wording of the law, which gives a broad margin of interpretation to the police and, as a result, allows for arbitrary. This law resulted in sanctions with unclear foundations against journalists filming police officers or against people in peaceful demonstrations and disproportionate limitations of fundamental rights protected by the European Convention.

In December 2018, the Council of Europe mentioned Spain as a problematic example of the application of anti-terrorism legislation. The reason for this was vague and inappropriately widespread terms of the crimes concerning terrorism. Specifically problematic is Article 578 of the Criminal Code, which has led to disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression.

Torture

The Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture recommended the creation of a new entity to prevent torture in Spain. Currently, such measures are handled by an Ombudsman’s office. In addition, other UN human rights experts urged Spain to suspend the extradition of Chinese and Taiwanese people to mainland China, as they risk torture and execution. Spain is a signatory of the international commitment to refrain from expelling, returning or extraditing persons to any State if there are reasons to believe that they may be subjected to torture or the death penalty.