Amnesty International Once Again Calls for the Immediate Release of Jailed Catalan Leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez

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 Government Will Be Able to Order Whatsapp and Telegram to Send Messages in Exceptional Situations: Many Fear It Will Be Used Against the Population

The Spanish government will be able to send messages by WhatsApp, Telegram and other applications to the population in exceptional situations, according to the preliminary draft of the Telecommunications Act.

“This exceptional and transitional power of direct management or intervention may affect any infrastructure, associated resource or element or level of the network or service that is necessary to preserve or restore public order, public safety or national security,” states the text of the preliminary draft, as reported by the digital newspaper Vozpopuli.

According to the draft, “this power will only be exercised with respect to providers of interpersonal communications services when they are assigned the obligation to transmit public alerts in the event of major catastrophes or imminent or ongoing emergencies.”

The draft proposes a specific intervention by law in communication services such as Whatsapp and Telegram, which operate from outside Spain and pose more problems. For this reason, the Government wants to be able to order them to broadcast messages and alerts that they consider appropriate during an exceptional situation.

Controversy

What is an exceptional situation? Many people fear the government will use this power to quell legitimate protests or acts of civil disobedience in the future. Whether this law will be used against dissenting and peaceful protesters is still unknown, but the experience in other countries shows that this type of law is likely to be used against the population in the foreseeable future.

Catalan Interior Ministry Announces that 50 Catalan Police Officers (Mossos) Are Under Investigation for Alleged Irregularities and Violence, but only One Officer Has Been Suspended

On Monday, the Catalan Interior Ministry presented an audit to assess possible police irregularities and announced that 50 Catalan police officers (Mossos) were under investigation for their alleged violence during the protests against the sentencing of jailed Catalan pro-independence leaders last October.

The officers under investigation are being tried in 34 different proceedings. Human rights organizations denounced the excessive use of force by the Catalan and Spanish police during the protests.

Catalan Interior Minister, Miquel Buch, said that there were 877 demonstrations in Catalonia following the Supreme Court ruling. He added that there were “violent episodes” during 20% of these protests. The protests left around 600 people injured, mostly unarmed, peaceful civilians.

Despite the condemnations of police violence by human rights organizations, Eduard Sallent, the head of Catalonia’s police, Mossos, who has been involved in controversies often, defended how the officers dealt with the protests, stressing that their attitude was “mostly passive and defensive.”

For now, only one officer has been suspended, according to Sallent.

The presentation of the audit became mired in controversy because not all media organizations were notified about the event and some journalists were not allowed to attend it despite the fact that there was space inside the Egara auditorium. ERC and CUP deputies also denounced that the parliamentary group that is part of the Interior Committee was not allowed to attend the press conference.

There has been complete secrecy of the Mossos on the audit and alleged irregularities in the last few months. Little information has been released and the presentation of the document earlier this week has raised many questions. Awaiting the outcome of all the investigations currently underway, Catalan society expects openness and more transparency from a police force that is expected to protect all citizens equally regardless of their political affiliation and ethnicity.

The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) Calls for the Annulment of the Convictions of Jailed Catalan Leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez Over 2017 Peaceful Demonstration

The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) has demanded the annulment of the convictions of jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez over the 2017 peaceful demonstration.

In a letter sent to Spain’s PM, Pedro Sánchez, the OMCT Secretary General, Gerald Staberock, demands that their sentences be suspended until the Constitutional Court rules on their appeal, which was accepted for consideration on May 6.

Staberock calls on the Spanish state to respect the people’s freedom of expression and assembly enshrined in international treaties that have been adopted by Spain.

“Based on the analysis of the facts, the course of the trial and the content of Judgment No. 459/2019, two elements are of particular concern. The first of these is that the Supreme Court’s ruling violated Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez’s individual rights. The verdict also sets a precedent that could negatively impact the effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of assembly in Spain,” says the anti-torture organization.

Staberock also calls for modification of the crime of sedition in a way that “establishes safeguards against possible restrictions to the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

Cuixart and Sànchez were convicted for sedition by the Spanish Supreme Court in October 2019 for their roles in a peaceful demonstration in 2017.

The Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office Opposes the Release of Jailed Catalan Civil Society Leader Jordi Cuixart

The Spanish Public Prosecutor’s Office opposes the release of jailed Catalan civil society leader and president of Òmnium, Jordi Cuixart, while the Constitutional Court (TC) reviews the sentence resulted from the 2017 independence referendum. The prosecutor considers the prison sentence too high to be suspended. After hearing the parties’ pronouncement, the TC will have to make a decision.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office also declared that the sentence must be completed in order to ensure the “deterrent” effect in the face of possible crimes that may be committed by the rest of society.

Òmnium has reprimanded Pedro Sánchez for missing “the last chance to correct the violation of rights before going to European courts.” The entity emphasizes that the prosecution has taken this decision, ignoring the calls of Amnesty International and major international human rights organizations.

Òmnium vice-president, Marcel Mauri, also reminded that Sánchez said that “the public prosecutor was under his orders” and that it is the same prosecutor who opposes the freedom of Cuixart and the other political prisoners.

The prisoners filed appeals for protection between February and March, just before the pandemic erupted. This is the last step before they can bring their cases to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but it is also the step that can be extended the longest because the Constitutional Court usually takes years to resolve this type of appeal.

Amnesty International Calls for the Immediate Release of Jailed Catalan Leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez

On Wednesday, Amnesty International (AI) demanded the immediate release of jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez. Both have been imprisoned since October 16, 2017, for participating in a peaceful demonstration on September 20, 2017.

AI made public that it sent a technical report to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Spanish State Attorney’s Office, the defense (lawyers) and the private prosecutors (Vox), which highlights the vagueness of the crime of sedition the Catalan leaders are accused of and insists that the sentence against them violates their freedom of expression and assembly. “They must be released immediately,” the organization said in a statement.

The document was provided just at the time the Constitutional Court accepted the appeal of the Catalan leaders to declare the sentence null.

AI considers the sentence a disproportionate restriction of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It does not meet the requirements of international human rights instruments, such as art. 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and art. 11.2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, established to be able to impose restrictions on judgments of this type.

“The definition of the criminal act of sedition must be substantially revised to ensure that it does not unduly criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, nor does it impose disproportionate penalties on acts of peaceful civil disobedience,” said Esteban Beltrán, director of the NGO in Spain.

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.

The Spanish Civil Guard Head: “We Are Working To Minimize Dissatisfaction Toward The Spanish Government”

Last week the Chief of Staff of Spain’s Civil Guard, José Manuel Santiago, said that the body he oversees is working to “minimize the dissatisfaction with the [Spanish] government and its management of the [health] crisis.” Later, he said that his words were misinterpreted and he added that in his 40-year career he had “learned that people come first.”

On Monday, Cadena Ser revealed that the Civil Guard Chief received an email from the Spanish interior ministry on April 15, urging the paramilitary police body to identify fake news likely to create “hostility to government institutions.”  

The intent of this email was to prepare a monographic report “with the purpose of being addressed in future meetings by the head of the ministerial department.” The email also asks for the inclusion of cyber crimes, repeated investigations of such crimes and complaints regarding online sales of products such as masks.

This report would be carried out by the Cybersecurity Coordination Unit, which in previous reports has described disinformation as “a set of publications on the Internet, mainly on social networks, of false news, half truths and highly subjective information with a destabilizing purpose of breaking down trust in public powers and representatives.”

Cadena Ser also revealed the existence of another email from the Civil Guard sent to the different command headquarters all across the country on April 15, urging its officers to identify fake news “likely to cause social distress and disaffection towards government institutions.”

Spain’s Civil Guard sources assured Cadena Ser that this strategy has been used in other “social conflicts” with the aim of informing the Government of false news with a destabilizing purpose, and identifying any criminal acts for referral to the judge or the prosecutor.

The Spanish Government Studies the Use of the Mobile Phone’s Geolocation Data against Coronavirus

Spain’s Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, said earlier this week that the Spanish government is looking to use its citizens’ mobile phone geolocation data to control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (Covid-19).  

Campo said that there are other countries applying the same measures. “The Data Protection Agency tells us that there is no violation during a situation like this and it seems reasonable to us that when someone is positive and reluctant [to be confined] we establish some mechanism,” he said.  

In this sense, he referred to the possibility of forcing the isolation of individuals that have tested positive (for Covid-19) who do not want to isolate themselves. “The emergency state does not lower the rule of law and, in cases like this, they would ask the relevant departments to act,” he said in relation to the enablement of public facilities and hotels to isolate asymptomatic individuals.  

In any case, he also said that everything cannot be “homogenized” and the government considers the assumptions of the people who want to access these spaces “voluntarily” because they cannot do it elsewhere.  

Many organizations, political parties and citizens have raised concerns about what they think will be a tool that will be in force beyond the state of emergency. The Spanish government could use this tool against political dissenters, they warned.  

Ministry of Truth (1984)

Campo also vowed to review all legal instruments in order to penalize anyone who spreads false information and “contaminates public opinion.” The minister defended the citizens’ right to truthful information and said that it is even more important in an emergency situation when he believes that fake news can do “harm.” Thus the Spanish government would decide what can and cannot be published jeopardizing citizens’ freedom of expression and political dissent.

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.”