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. 

 

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.

 

 

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.

Catalonia Poll: Over 80% of Catalans Are in Favor of a Mutually Agreed Self-determination Referendum

Last week, Spanish PM Sánchez affirmed that most Catalans don’t support the independence of Catalonia and urged the Catalan government to present him a proposal supported by at least 75% of Catalans. The last poll carried out by the Ara newspaper shows that 80% of Catalans are in favor of a mutually agreed self-determination referendum, a proposal that Sánchez should accept in order to keep his words and fulfill his often hollow promises. 

Ara Newspaper Poll

80.4% of Catalans are in favor of an agreed self-determination referendum according to a survey published by the Ara newspaper this Sunday. By parties, the trend is the same, 71% of those who voted the “Socialist” Party (PSC) on Dec. 21 agree with a mutually agreed referendum.  In fact, the only ones who are most opposed are the PP and C’s voters, although 24% of C’s voters also show their support for a referendum.

The poll also shows that over 75% of Catalans rejects the pre-trial incarceration for the Catalan political prisoners, the accusations of rebellion, and the possible implementation of another Article 155 (direct rule) over Catalonia. Almost 8 out of 10 Catalans are against the pre-trial imprisonment, and a similar percentage are also opposed to the fact that the Catalan prisoners will be tried for rebellion. 49.8% of those interviewed who oppose independence believe that the charges are excessive, and 52.5% also believe the fact they are are in a provisional prison. In both cases, the percentage of the voters against independence is 39%. 

Over 79% of Catalans oppose a recurrence of future interventions from the Spanish government. In fact, only the voters of the PP and C’s support this idea, although in the case of C’s there are 31% who are against to what their political leaders think.

Spanish PM Sánchez

It’s clear there is a consensus in Catalonia in favor of a mutually agreed self-determination referendum to solve the ongoing crisis and against the judicialization of politics. The administration of the Spanish PM Sánchez should soon tackle the real demands of Catalan society, or the Catalans, who have shown the first signs of frustration and fury against the current situation, could soon organize themselves to unilaterally implement the Catalan Republic. And December 21st. appears to be Sanchez’s last opportunity to de-judicialize politics and propose a realistic project for Catalonia. Whether Spanish PM Sánchez will act smarter than his predecessor Rajoy is still unknown, but what appears to be certain is that his time as PM to solve the Catalan crisis is ending.

The Trial Against Catalan Political Prisoners Gets Closer

The countdown to the trial against Catalan political prisoners has already begun. This week itself ended the deadline for the defenses to ask for the revocation of the instruction, which will surely be dismissed by the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court. Thereafter, the trial court can present its conclusions from the investigations and the opening of the trial can be decreed. However, the prisoners’ defense will seek to block it until their appeals are resolved.

The defense estimates that the trial will begin in January. And that this could last for about two months, just before the campaign for local and European elections begin. However, they suspect that the Supreme Court could intend to initiate the trial in November in order to take the defense by surprise and undermine their strategy.

Until now, the opening of the trial has been delayed because the defense has appealed the instructions of Judge Llarena and the provisional orders of imprisonment. The recusations against the members of the court have already been rejected.

Given that there are local and European elections in May 2019, the Supreme Court is not expected to announce the final sentence for the Catalan political prisoners, which will likely be up to 25 years in prison for each one, until June or July. The court believes that the announcement of the sentences before the aforementioned elections could give pro-independence parties landslide victories, which would legitimize Catalonia’s independence. 

Meanwhile, the Catalan leaders Oriol Junqueras, Carme Forcadell, Jordi Turull, Dolors Bassa, Josep Rull, Quim Forn, Jordi Sànchez, Raül Romeva, and Jordi Cuixart are expected to remain in prison before the trial.

Additional Information About the Case

In the filings of the prosecution, the public prosecutor and VOX party will have to specify the crimes for which the defendants will be tried. Right now, the nine political prisoners are being prosecuted for rebellion and embezzlement – the latter, in the case of the Puigdemont government advisers. This is where the state prosecutor’s office can make a gesture of distension and reduce the classification of Crimes and Petitions of Penalties, despite the opposition of the Supreme Court prosecutors. It is not expected that the VOX party will do so, but a reduction in the rhetoric of the prosecutor’s office can lower the fervor surrounding the trial, just as it could open a crisis between the prosecutor’s office and the state prosecutor’s office by not doing so.