Earlier this week, the defense of exiled Catalan MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí, sent an official letter to Spain’s Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, asking whether he has already informed national police forces and the Interpol that they cannot be arrested.
The three-page letter from the exiles’ defense asks whether the necessary instructions have been issued to give effect to the suspension of the proceedings and the arrest warrants issued. Both, the European extradition orders and the legal proceedings against them were provisionally suspended by the EU Court of Justice, pending preliminary questions requested by the same judge Llarena.
This situation places the far-right Supreme Court magistrate in a complicated position. If he maintains that Catalan exiled leaders can be arrested, as he has already suggested, he will be violating EU laws. On the other hand, if he acknowledges that they cannot be arrested, he will pave the way for their return from exile.
Until now Llarena has maintained the criminal proceedings, the extradition orders, and arrest warrants, violating EU laws. However, a new resolution of the EU Court of Justice is very clear and says that it is irrelevant for Llarena to say that the criminal proceedings and extradition orders are active since EU justice has suspended them and EU laws have supremacy over national laws.
The court also sent a letter to Llarena, reminding him that his request for preliminary questions in March 2021 meant the immediate suspension of all proceedings againstthe exiled MEPs leaders.
The leader of the Spanish Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, attended a mass in honour of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco in Granada on Saturday, November 20th. According to the Popular Party, Casado, was “unaware” that the mass in honour of the dictator was going to take place that day. However, this argument is dubious since photographs show that there were pre-constitutional flags and attendees making fascist salutes.
The controversy started earlier this week when several Spanish media outlets published photos of Casado with Mass-goers who attended the mass in memory of the dictator on the 46th anniversary of his death, an incident that has provoked denunciations by various left-wing political parties. “There were 10 masses in honour of Franco and there are 23,000 churches in Spain, so the chance of going to a mass for Franco being unaware was 0.005%.”
Foundation Francisco Franco
The Francisco Franco foundation thanked the PP President for attending the mass. “We are grateful that the opposition leader and his family attended the prayers for the soul of an exemplary Christian like Francisco Franco Bahamonde.” In addition, the foundation hopes that the presence of the PP leader at the event will serve to “normalize” its activities and demands.
Silence from Casado
Pablo Casado, on the other hand, has turned a deaf ear to criticism and has refused to give any explanation of his actions.
On Tuesday, the High Court of Madrid ordered the imprisonment of 10 of the 14 neo-Nazis who assaulted the Blanquerna Catalan cultural center in Madrid in 2013. They were told to collect their prison entry orders between November 25th and 29th, and after that, they will have ten more days to enter the prison of their choice. This decision comes after the Constitutional Court rejected the last possible appeal of the defendants for lack of “constitutional significance.”
The High Court also sent a letter to the Supreme Court to clarify the status of the pardon processes of two of the convicted, whose entries into prison had been temporarily suspended. In 2016, the 14 got prison sentences of up to six years. But in 2020, the Supreme Court reduced their sentences to between 2 years and 7 months and 2 years and 9 months in prison.
Two of the convicts had been subject to arrest warrants after disappearing, but one of them was captured and is already serving his sentence at the Victoria Kent prison.
The Catalan pro-independence movement believes their imprisonments come very late. It has been eight years since the events took place and five since their first conviction.
A report of the European United Left denounces the silence of the EU Commission on the Spanish government’s violations of the rule of law in Catalonia. It concludes that the EU has no real will to protect the rule of law when allowing threats against the law and systematic abuses of power, as in the case of state repression against the Catalan independence movement.
The report, which was commissioned by MEP Clare Daly and drafted by the academic Albena Azmanova, denounces the “breaches of the law in Spain” that include the problems of judicial independence, the arbitrary imprisonment of pro-independence leaders, the persecution of those organizing demonstrations, the bail of 5.4 million euros for former officials from the Court of Auditors, and the illegal espionage of Catalan politicians using the Pegasus spyware.
The report concludes that the “deliberate silence” of the European authorities in the face of the violations of the Spanish state is likely to have a negative and far-reaching effect on the rule of law in the European Union, and that the reductive and legalistic analysis of the EU Commission on the rule of law in Spain favors the use of an instrument of oppression.
Last week, the Belgian Constitutional Court ruled that the lèse-majesté law, which penalized insults to the crown, was unconstitutional. According to the high court, the 1847 law, which allows for up to three-year sentences for insulting the royal family, violates the right to freedom of expression as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Article 19 of the Constitution prohibits freedom of expression from being subject to preventive restrictions,” says the Belgian Constitutional ruling, which adds: “By sanctioning words publicly expressed against the person of the king, article 1 of the law of April 6, 1847, constitutes an interference with the right to freedom of expression.” This ruling was in response to a question presented by the court of Ghent that must resolve the extradition case of the exiled rapper Valtònyc.
The rapper was sentenced in Spain to three and a half years’ prison for, amongst other things, insults to the crown in the lyrics of his songs. He decided to go to exile and appeal to the Belgian judiciary, which has now ruled that insults against the king are protected by freedom of expression.
Valtònyc celebrated the ruling in a Tweet in which he said his case had served the “collective good.” We have won and Belgium has removed the lèse-majesté from the criminal code. “I have always been clear that I wanted to put my case in the hands of those protecting fundamental rights for all. I did not lower my head and you have never left me alone. Thank you.”
“Victory. The constitutional court abolishes the criminal law on lèse-majesté, by declaring it contrary to freedom of expression. A historic step for our internal Belgian legal order, and good news for the Valtònyc extradition case,” said Simon Bekaert, Valtònyc’s lawyer.
The extradition of the rapper, which will be decided on November 23rd, at the Ghent Court of Appeal, thus becomes very unlikely.
The Spanish National Court (AN) has issued a report which is against granting a pardon to rapper Pablo Hasél. He is serving several prison sentences for alleged glorification of terrorism and insulting the Spanish monarchy in various tweets and song lyrics, a criminal offense according to the crimes of opinion. The application of this law has long been questioned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The Spanish court considers that “there are no grounds of justice, equity or public utility” for granting the pardon and for this reason “issues an unfavorable report,” though the final decision will be made by the Spanish government. The judges believe that Hasél does not deserve the pardon due to his “antisocial attitude” revealed by the singer’s other convictions, which are both for other crimes of opinion – insults to the Crown and State institutions.
Hasél’s imprisonment caused a week of riots in Catalonia and this prompted the Spanish government to promise to lessen the penalties for crimes of opinion, a promise that has not been fulfilled 8 months later.
Spain’s State Legal Office has asked the General Court of the European Union (EGC) to reject the precautionary measures requested by exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont to restore his immunity as MEP. This move comes after the defense team of exiled President requested the precautionary measures at the EU General Court on October 1st, following his short arrest on the Island of Sardinia, Italy, after Spain requested his extradition.
In July, Spanish Justice and the State Legal Office lied to the General Court (EGC) by assuring them that the extradition orders against exiled Catalan leaders had been suspended. The court trusted them and decided to deny the precautionary measures to the Catalan leaders at that time, arguing that there was no risk of detention. However, it left the door open to granting them immunity again if their situation changed and any member state of the EU arrested them, as happened with Puigdemont by the end of September. The EGC is now expected to grant him immunity again in the next few weeks or months.
Gonzalo Boye, one of Puigdemont’s lawyers, told reporters that Puigdemont was asking for precautionary measures because Spanish justice was not willing to “guarantee his rights” as an MEP. He also said that he believes that Spain will be sanctioned by EU Justice for misleading a EU Court.
The Polish government has justified the controversial and authoritarian ruling of its Constitutional Court on the primacy of national laws over EU laws, arguing that Spain did the same in the case regarding the seat as MEP and immunity of former Catalan political prisoner Oriol Junqueras, despite the fact that according to EU treaties, EU laws have primacy over national ones.
In a press conference, Poland’s PM Mateusz Morawiecki, reminded the journalists that in the case of Junqueras, Spanish courts concluded that the EU institutions “sometimes” exceed their powers and clash with state legislation. He referred to the lawsuits filed in both the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) and the Spanish Supreme Court over the immunity of Junqueras.
EU courts ruled that he had immunity as an MEP and therefore had to be released and be able to travel to Strasbourg to get his accreditation. However, the Spanish Supreme Court did not authorize him to do so, arguing that immunity in Spanish legislation does not apply when a trial has begun before an election.
Poland now affirms that this case gives them legitimacy to do the same and remain a Member State of the EU.
On Tuesday, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled that the arrest warrants against exiled Catalan leaders are active despite the fact that Spanish authorities informed the EU Court of Justice that they were suspended, a lie that is expected to have serious consequences for the Spanish state. This ruling, however, will not have any immediate impact on the extradition procedures against Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí in Italy and Belgium, where the proceedings have already been suspended by national courts, pending EU court decisions on their immunity as MEPs and the Luxembourg court’s response to the questions raised by Spain’s Supreme Court over the European arrest warrant system in March.
The EU Court of Justice lifted the immunity of Puigdemont as MEP in spring, pending the resolution of an appeal, arguing that there was no risk of detention against him after Spanish authorities informed the court that his extradition order was suspended. However, the court said that immunity could be provisionally granted again if he faced the risk of arrest again. Thus, following his detention in Sardinia on September 23, the exiled President’s lawyers requested that the EU Court restore his immunity on October 1, pending a final decision on the issue.
Germany, Belgium, Scotland, and Italy have refused to extradite exiled leaders Carles Puigdemont, Clara Ponsatí, Toni Comín, and Lluís Puig on several occasions since 2017.
The Italian Democratic Senators Roberto Rampi and Gianni Marilotti have called on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for concrete action against arbitrary detentions that violate fundamental rights. This comes after exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont was arrested on the island of Sardinia, Italy, last week.
Both senators called for the protection of the freedom of expression of citizens and representatives, and said that “the clear will of the Catalan people to claim their independence cannot be treated as a subversive and criminal act,” but there must be a “political weighting” in the European integration framework. They also called for the Catalan issue to leave the judicial and repressive dimension and return to a political scope.
The rapporteur for the Council of Europe (CoE) on the 2017 independence referendum, Boris Cilevics, noted with “concern” the arrest of Carles Puigdemont in Italy. In a message on social media, the Latvian MP recalled that a resolution of the Council called on the Spanish authorities to “abandon extradition proceedings against Catalan politicians living abroad [exiles] as those convicted for their role in the 2017 referendum were partially pardoned last summer,” he said.