50 international personalities, including five Nobel Prize laureates and UN dignitaries, have signed a manifesto promoted by the Catalan civic organization Òmnium Cultural calling for an amnesty for the jailed, exiled and prosecuted over the 2017 independence referendum.
The manifesto argues against the use of courts by Spain “to resolve a political crisis, and urges the Spanish government to end repression and to initiate sincere dialogue with Catalonia to find a political solution that would give the citizens of Catalonia the right to decide their own political future.”
Yoko Ono, Gerry Adams, Dilma Rousseff, Ai Wei Wei, and five Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Jody Williams, Mairead Corrigan, Shirin Ebadi, Elfriede Jelinek and Adolfo Perez Esquivel are amongst the 50 signatories of the manifesto calling for amnesty and the end of repression of Catalans by Spain.
This manifesto comes ahead of Catalan elections on February 14th, which are expected to see pro-independence parties securing an absolute majority with a strong possibility of obtaining over 50% of the total votes.
Earlier this week, the prosecutors of the Spanish Supreme Court Javier Zaragoza, Jaime Moreno, Consuelo Madrigal and Fidel Cadena informed the Supreme Court that they oppose the pardons for the pro-independence political prisoners because they do not observe reasons of “justice, equity or utility.”
The prosecutors also warned that “the enormous gravity of the facts and the proportionality of the sentences imposed must be borne in mind.” In fact, they believe that the lack of “obedience to the law” indicates that the political prisoners would commit the same crime [holding a vote: giving people the power to decide their own future through an independence referendum] again.
According to the Public Ministry, “in any case, it seems obvious that one of the minimum requirements for granting pardons is the ascertainment of a manifest acceptance of responsibility for the crime committed and the determined purpose of not reoffending as evidence of compliance with the violated legality. None of these circumstances have been proven in the present case,” concluded the prosecutor.
Having heard the position of the prosecutors, the Supreme Court must now send its report, which, like that of the prosecutors, is mandatory but not binding on the Spanish government, which has the final decision in its hands.
NOTE: The Spanish Supreme Court and the presiding body of the judiciary have leaned towards far-right positions in the last few years.
Catalonia would vote “Yes” for Independence if a referendum were held today, according to the latest poll published by the Institute of Political and Social Sciences (ICPS), which is affiliated with the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
It showed that 44.4% of Catalans would vote “Yes”, 33.3% would vote “No”, 18.5% would abstain, and 3.3% do not know or would not answer. However, among those who would decide to go to the polls, 56.7% would vote “Yes” and 42.6% would vote “No”.
The ICPS survey also indicates that, in the preferences on the state model, 38.1% prefer an independent Catalonia, 25.9% would prefer Catalonia to be an autonomous community of Spain, and 19.4% would prefer Catalonia to remain a state within federal Spain.
Considering the individual political parties, most of the members of JxCat, ERC and CUP want the process to end with independence, while those of PSC and els Comuns would opt for increased self-government, and those of C,s and PP simply would like the process to end, although C,s voters are quite divided and almost half would also like an increase in self-government.
Tomorrow Monday, November 16th, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs will start discussing whether to lift the immunity of Catalan leaders Puigdemont, Ponsatí and Comín. This comes at the request of Spanish authorities, who have openly expressed their desire to have them extradited in order to jail them for their roles in the 2017 independence referendum, even though Belgian justice recently rejected the extradition of exiled Catalan leader Lluís Puig arguing that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to issue a European arrest warrant against him.
The ultra-conservative Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki will be the head of the committee and will present the case, which will then be discussed by the rest of MEPs on the committee.
Monday’s session will be held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions. Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí will be summoned for a hearing at a later date. The debate on their immunity is expected to last for several months.
In the event Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí lose their immunity, they would still remain MEPs until a potential extradition and conviction barring them from office takes place.
On Tuesday, Amnesty International called once again for the immediate and unconditional release of jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, thus bringing an end to the “injustice” they have been suffering for three years, during which they have been in prison.
The two pro-independence activists were jailed for their roles in the 2017 independence push, when they held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Ministry of the Economy. Both Sànchez and Cuixart were leaders of civic organizations, ANC and Òmnium, at the time of their jailing and were not members of any political party that carried out the 2017 independence referendum.
Amnesty considers their imprisonment “disproportionate” and that it “violates their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.” The organization presented a technical report in 2019 based on international law that points out the “vagueness” of the crime of sedition for which Cuixart and Sànchez were convicted and states that Spain’s state powers “have the opportunity to correct the effects of an unjust sentence against human rights.”
The writ was presented to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Constitutional Court, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General for Constitutional and Human Rights.
After the publication of the report, Jordi Sànchez remarked that “freedom of expression protected him while demonstrating in front of the Ministry of the Economy on September 20, 2017” and that “his arrest, accusation, and conviction had no legal basis.” Meanwhile, Cuixart called on Spain’s PM, Pedro Sánchez, to “comply” with international law and act to free the prisoners.
The Spanish Civil Guard has named the new operation against the Catalan pro-independence movement “Volhov,” the name of a Russian river near the city of Novgorod, where the Spanish fascist Blue Division under Nazi command won a battle against the Soviet Union in 1941.
The unblocking of the river allowed the Nazi Army to consolidate positions and launch an offensive to the east, and so the Germans occupied the towns of Smeissko, Sitno, Tigoda and Petrovskoye.
Between 1941 and 1943, about 50,000 Spanish soldiers took part in several battles on the Eastern Front, all as part of the Siege of Leningrad. The Blue Division was a unit of volunteer Spaniards that fought in favor of Hitler during World War II, mainly on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union’s Red Army. It participated in several battles, much acclaimed today by Franco’s supporters and the far-right ultras: Krasni Bor, the Battle of Possad and the Battle of Volhov.
On Wednesday, the Spanish National Court acquitted the former Catalan leadership of the Catalan police: Chief Josep Lluís Trapero, Superintendent Teresa Laplana, the former Secretary-General of the Department of Interior Cèsar Puig and the former Director-General of the Mossos Pere Soler for their role in the 2017 independence referendum.
The public prosecutor was asking for 10 years in prison for Trapero, Puig and Soler for sedition or alternatively twenty months of disqualification for the crime of disobedience. For Laplana, the prosecutor asked for four years in prison for sedition or one year of disqualification for disobedience. The Public Prosecutor’s Office will now study the ruling and decide whether to appeal it.
The judgment dismantles the main arguments against the political prisoners
The verdict was based on the lack of proof that any of the defendants violated the rulings of the Constitutional Court, the Spanish High Court in Catalonia or the Public Prosecutor’s Office. It also states that it has not been proven that the defendants agreed with the government to promote the “passivity” of the Catalan police during the 2017 independence referendum.
The verdict also contradicts the sentences given to the political prisoners for sedition. It states that the Catalan police acted with proportionality, congruence and opportunity during the referendum because in case of having “used violence the situation in polling stations could have led to serious public disorder.” As for the events of September 20, 2017, the resolution details that the protest, for which Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart are imprisoned, took place “without major violent incidents during the morning and afternoon, besides the ‘destruction’ of a few cars.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
On Monday, Spain’s interior minister, Marlaska, confirmed that the Spanish government was still providing protection for former King Juan Carlos I, who fled the country last week over allegations of corruption and money laundering. He is believed to have settled in a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi. The cost per night is over €10,000.
Marlaska: “It is reasonable and timely that the Minister of the Interior does not give any information about it [where the King is], but what no one can forget is that we are talking about the person who was the head of State in Spain. His security obviously concerns the Spanish state.”
PM Pedro Sánchez affirmed that he didn’t know the whereabouts of the monarch, but the minister of the interior’s statements suggests his administration is closely monitoring the former king’s steps.
Last week, the state-owned public broadcaster RTVE revealed that the government had been negotiating the self-imposed exile of the monarch with the Royal House over a period of weeks, meaning it had helped the monarch to flee the country.
Juan Carlos is under investigation in Spain for his role in a deal in which a Spanish consortium landed a €6.7 billion contract to build a high-speed rail line between the Saudi cities of Medina and Mecca.
Swiss prosecutors are also investigating a $100 million bank account held by the monarch in the country. According to the investigations, Juan Carlos allegedly received a “donation” of $100 million from the king of Saudi Arabia that he put in an offshore account in 2008. A few years later, he allegedly “gifted” 65 of those millions from that account to his ex-lover Corinna Larsen.
It is still too early to know whether Swiss and Spanish justice will convict the former king, Juan Carlos I, of corruption and money laundering. However, this case has already shown that the Spanish government has helped someone under investigation over corruption and money laundering to flee the country and is still providing him protection. There is, then, little doubt the Spanish administration is trying to shore up the 78 regime.