The Spanish Judiciary Irregularities and the Protection of Freedoms and Rights

The President of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Carlos Lesmes, has initiated a marathon of appointments of high judicial positions despite the fact that the council is pending renewal. He has already made the appointment of 13 of the aforementioned positions and plans to do about 25 more before August. The vacancies to renew include the presidency of the National Court and four seats of the Supreme Court.

Elisa Beni denounces in eldiario.es that this situation is unusual and “looks so bad that not only forces to question whether a CGPJ with pending renewal mandate can take these decisions that will tie his successors for five years in a body that will have a majority of progressive sensitivity, but also the anomalous way it is being done.”

She also regrets that “something so serious goes virtually unnoticed by the public as well as some politicians who do not see the seriousness of what is happening.”

The current Spanish judiciary is also currently deliberating on the sentences for the jailed Catalan leaders, who are expected to receive harsh punishments: sentences by up to 30 years in prison, for no apparent reason other than holding a depenalized democratic vote: a self-determination referendum.

Given the aforementioned anti-democratic moves, it’s not surprising that most Catalans support independence. The conclusion is clear: the Spanish authoritarian state is unreformable. Thus, the creation of a new state is a good opportunity for the Catalans to build a most prosperous and fair country where no one is above anyone else and all fundamental rights are respected.

The Independence Trial verdict, expected to be announced between July and October, will be another test of the strength of Spanish “democracy.” Because of several unfair verdicts in the past, the current Spanish Judiciary hasn’t given any reason for optimism – rather the contrary. So, pro-independence forces have the responsibility to find strategic unity leaving aside any kind of partisan division. It will be necessary to articulate a strong, peaceful and democratic response to the verdict in order to defend and protect the freedoms and rights achieved in the past by our parents, grandparents and ancestors.

It is important to remark that this democratic “battle” is not only about independence, but the protection of fundamental rights. These could be curtailed or even entirely eliminated by the Spanish State for many generations to come.

Authoritarianism VS Democracy

It’s still uncertain who will win this struggle, but it’s sure that everyone must choose one option to stand for and that the outcome will mark us as a society for many years to come.

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary May 27, 28, and 29

May 27, Day 47 of Trial

– The documentary evidence phase started on Monday, showing documents and presenting hundreds of videos from both the defense and the accusation related to what happened during Autumn of 2017.

– Videos were not shown during the witness stage of the trial, and in this documentary phase no commentary on the footage was allowed.

– The evidence shown on Monday included police reports on activities allegedly related to the misuse of public funds and the seizure of material for the referendum.

– The accusation presented videos showing “violence” perpetrated by the voters against the Spanish police.

– The defense presented videos showing the “violence” perpetrated by the Spanish police during the October 1 referendum.

May 28, Day 48 of Trial

– On Tuesday, videos presented by the prosecution team aimed to establish that violence was used in the 2017 independence bid were shown.

– Footage shown in court featured protesters and voters peacefully trying to prevent the Spanish police from entering polling stations during the 2017 independence referendum.

– In many cases the state prosecutor was unable to say where or when the footage had been recorded.

– The prosecutor was often unable to tell the defense lawyers where exactly the video had been recorded, saying that the intention had been to show the “general climate everywhere.”

May 29, Day 49 of Trial

– The defense teams presented their video evidence in court.

– The videos shown in court featured some of the jailed leaders calling for the people to keep a peaceful attitude during the referendum.

– One of the videos featured the jailed Catalan leader Jordi Cuixart openly rejecting “violence and non-democratic behavior.”

– Videos with images of police violence against peaceful voters and protesters at numerous locations across Catalonia were shown.

– The lawyers for the defense were able to identify when and where each of the videos had been filmed.

Additional Information

– The defense will present their summaries on June 10 before the defendants also share their closing remarks.

– The public prosecutor confirmed the charges of rebellion against most of the defendants on trial and requests prison sentences of up to 25 years for organizing a referendum and declaring independence in late 2017.

– The prosecutor requested 17 years in jail for the former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and for the Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez.

– The prosecutor requested 16 years in jail for the former Catalan ministers Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa, Raül Romeva, and Joaquim Forn.

– The solicitor general’s office requested 7 and 12 years in prison for sedition.

– The private prosecutor representing the far-right party Vox requested 74 years in prison for the former ministers and 62 years for Sànchez and Cuixart.

– Vox reduced its demands regarding Santi Vila, reducing the charges to disobedience, which carries no prison sentence.

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary Most Important Testimonies May 13 and 14

May 13, Day 43 of Trial

The day started with testimonies from citizens who voted in the 2017 independence referendum followed by a declaration from Mireia Boya, a former MP of CUP party.

– Mireia Boya explained that she participated in the demonstration in front of the Catalan Finance Ministry on September 20, 2017, to protest against the detention of Catalan government officials. “The atmosphere was festive. It was easy to get to the door,” she said.

Boya also explained that she went to “defend” the CUP headquarters the same day when she heard that the Spanish National Police was trying to enter the building without a court order.

– Francesc Esteve, the head of the Catalan government’s legal department, told the court that he was not aware of any irregular payments made by the Catalan government for the referendum.

– Mercè Corretja, head of the Catalan government’s public procurement, said that she searched the public contracts registry several times and she hadn’t found anything related to the referendum. She also said that the Catalan government accounts had been blocked by Spain 15 days prior to the vote.

– Nuria Cuenca, the head of the education department in the Catalan government, told the court that the Spanish police caused damage at schools of €268,000 the day of the referendum.

May 14, Day 44 of Trial

The day was marked by a clash between Judge Marchena and Jordi Cuixart‘s defense counsel, Benet Salellas.

Judge Marchena repeatedly interrupted the witness Marina Garcés whenever she expressed her feelings over the referendum day. “We can’t waste time,” he said.

Judge Marchena: “Your personal opinions are of no interest, even though you would love to keep talking about them.”

Lawyer Benet Salellas protested Marchena’s assessment, noting that the court had been receptive to “the perceptions of witnesses of the referendum when they were police officers.” However,  Marchena suggested he would be glad if Salellas remained quiet during the cross-examination of academic Marina GarcésSalellas then protested and denounced a “continued violation of fundamental rights” and said he would not be asking further questions as a result of the decision. “Much better,” Marchena responded.

Ramon Font, the head of an education trade union, spoke about the initiative to keep schools open with activities during the independence referendum weekend.

Font said that many organizations joined the initiative: “We couldn’t conceive that schools, for us temples of culture and democracy, would remain closed for any state decision.”

Jordi Pesarrodona, a voter of the referendum, said that the Spanish police hit his testicles with batons several times the day of the referendum.

Maria Lluisa Carrillo, a voter of the referendum, said she was thrown to the ground by the Spanish police, who then, broke her pelvis.

Mercé Arderiu, a lawyer at the Catalan parliament, said the order of the day was changed on a 6 and 7 September 2017 plenary session at the request of MPs. She explained speaker Forcadell had no power to prevent this from happening.

Lluis Corominas, a former member of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau, on the former speaker Forcadell: “All formal necessities were always examined. The president cannot do anything alone.”

Anna Simó, a former member of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau, said that Forcadell never once used her tie-breaking vote in any parliament decision. “The president of the chamber could not stop the alteration of the agenda. It was up to the parliament,” she said.

Additional Information 

On May 14, the electoral authority stopped jailed leader Junqueras from joining a televised EU election debate, arguing that it was incompatible with the timetable of the prison where the former vice president is being held.

Also on May 14, Catalan speaker Roger Torrent met with the Council of Europe  commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatović, to talk about Spain’s “violation of rights and democratic regression.”

Independence Trial: Most Important Testimonies April 23, 24, and 25

April 23, Day 34 of Trial 

 – Vice-President Pere Aragonès exercised his right to not testify, alleging that the Court number 13 of Barcelona was investigating him.

– Jordi Jané and former government secretary Joan Vidal told the court that the Catalan government’s aim was to hold an agreed referendum with Spain.

– Jané, Meritxell Ruiz, and Jordi Baiget, who also testified during the day 34 of trial, resigned from their posts three months before the October 1st independence referendum. They affirmed that their resignations were not connected to a potential unilateral vote, though growing tensions between the Spanish and Catalan administrations justified their resignations.

– David Badal, former responsible for government payments in 2017, denied that any payments were made to any printing company.

 

April 24, Day 35 of Trial 

– Former director general of the Catalan police, Albert Batlle, told the court that he resigned after jailed Joaquim Forn was appointed interior minister because he was “not comfortable” with how political events were “unfolding” in the run-up to the October 1st independence referendum.

– Joan Ignasi Elena, the former coordinator of the National Pact for the Referendum (PNR) told the court that the organization received no public money.

“The PNR was funded by private donations and the Catalan government was just one of the thousands of entities that joined,” said Joan Ignasi Elena

– Jordi Solé, MEP for ERC party on the September 20, 2017, Spanish police raids in Catalan government buildings: “It was not a tense situation. I saw neither any attacks nor threats.”

 

April 25, Day 36 of Trial

– Four witnesses, who were members of organizations overseeing the work of Diplocat, a public-private diplomatic body promoting Catalonia abroad, defended in court the “plurality” of the entity.

– Gerardo Pisarello, the deputy mayor of Barcelona, told the court that Diplocat always was plural regarding political issues, inviting both experts for and against Catalan self-determination to its conferences.

– Daniel García, a member of UGT, Spain’s largest trade union, explained that the organization “was neutral and let everybody explain their political position.”

– The director of the Barcelona Institute for International Studies (IBEI), Jacint Jordana, denied that Diplocat acted as an arm of the Catalan government.

– Former Catalan MP David Fernàndez (CUP) described the demonstrations during the October 1st independence referendum as “absolutely peaceful.”

If self-determination is a crime, I declare myself guilty and a repeat offender. And as long as it remains a crime, I’ll continue to disobey until it becomes a democratic right” — David Fernàndez

– Catalan MP Ruben Wagensberg (ERC) also defended the peaceful protests on September 20, 2017, against Spanish police raids  in Catalan government buildings: “Catalan citizens engaged in the greatest act of civil disobedience I’ve ever seen.”

Additional Information

On April 23, the day 34 of trial, sixty Portuguese politicians and intellectuals signed a manifesto under the title “For Democracy and Freedoms in Catalonia.” The manifesto calls for the “immediate release” of the Catalan political prisoners.

 

 

 

Independence Trial: Most Important Testimonies April 15, 16, and 17

April 15, Day 31 of Trial 

A Spanish Civil Guard officer affirmed that former speaker and government officials were “key” players in the bid to achieve independence. 

Former Catalan Speaker Carme Forcadell “was an essential figure to pass [independence] laws,” said the officer. Former Catalan police chief Josep Lluís Trapero was also “essential in the independentist strategy,” he added.

The same officer also affirmed that according to their investigations,  Catalan official Josep Maria Jové “was the person who had to authorize the expenses to hold the referendum.”

 

April 16, Day 32 of Trial 

Spanish police officers talked about alleged violence by voters during the 2017 independence referendum. They also accused their Catalan counterparts of inaction. “They didn’t act at all,” said a Spanish police officer.

 

April 17, Day 33 of Trial

Spanish police officers accused their Catalan counterparts of inaction during the 2017 independence referendum. “Whenever they saw us, they reported our arrival to someone and then left,” said a Spanish police officer.

Some officers claimed that their operation to stop the referendum was “exemplary,” and denied the use of violence against the voters.

 

Additional Information

The day 32 of Trial, marked one and a half years since the Catalan political prisoners Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez were unjustly jailed by the Spanish State.

On the day 33 of trial, Members of Canada’s Research Institute on Self-Determination of Peoples said the Spanish Supreme Court might be infringing defendants’ rights.

Professor of international and constitutional law at the Montreal University, Daniel Turp: “We believe there are issues relating to human rights, to the protection of the right of the accused, and maybe the larger issue of freedom of expression, of association, maybe even the issue of the right of self-determination of the Catalan people.”

 

Turp’s colleague Stéfanie Tougas: “The issue of how they are treated is going to be part of our report, because we don’t understand how they can be so badly treated.”

NOTE: Neither the police nor any court has been able to prove yet the veracity of any of the aforementioned police testimonies in the Independence Trial. Those statements appear rather to be just a mere police/court fabrication aimed at unjustly imprison the Catalan democratic leaders for many years, even decades. 

Independence Trial: Most Important Testimonies of April 2, 3, and 4

April 2, Day 25 of Trial 

Head of information of the Spanish National police in Catalonia during the October 1st independence referendum: “The demonstrators [voters] attacked the police officers who were carrying out a raid on the CUP party headquarters on September 20th, 2017.”

According to the officer’s testimony, the Spanish police were “surrounded” and forced to fire “blank shots in order to get out.” He also affirmed that the operation at the CUP party HQ was carried out on instructions of the public prosecutor after “propaganda” for the October 1st referendum had been detected there.

The officer said “72 Spanish police officers were injured” during the operation to stop the referendum on October 1st, 2017, and he accused the Catalan police of being “passive,” and even “hindering” their work.

 

April 3, Day 26 of Trial

The second-in-command of the Catalan police during the independence referendum, Ferran López: “Puigdemont pledged to declare independence if there were ‘incidents’ during the 2017 independence referendum.”

López also affirmed that “the Catalan police never collaborated either in the preparation or in the execution of the referendum.” “In fact, the Mossos leadership expressed concern to [President] Puigdemont about the referendum day and the police chief Trapero asked Catalan government leaders to comply with the judicial orders and not to hold the referendum.”

López also assured that Mossos (Catalan police) officers were deployed in 2,300 polling stations during the referendum. “Mossos d’Esquadra officers seized 423 ballot boxes, 90,000 ballot papers, and 60,000 envelopes,” added López.

 

April 4, Day 27 of Trial

Former deputy chief of the Mossos (Catalan police) Juan Carlos Molinero: “The Catalan police never  carried out follow-ups on [Spanish] police forces during the referendum.”

Molinero insisted that the various police forces involved in the operation to stop the independence referendum on October 1st, 2017, held “equal responsibilities.” He also said that Diego Pérez de los Cobos, the Spanish Civil Guard colonel in charge of coordinating all police forces during the referendum, ”never objected the Mossos operation planned for the referendum.”

Molinero confirmed what the second-in-command of the Catalan police during the independence referendum Ferran López said the day before: “[President] Puigdemont said he would declare independence if there was an extreme situation or a tragedy during the vote.”

Molinero also said that former interior minister Joaquim Forn told the leadership of the Mossos that he “would not meddle in the police operation during the October 1st independence referendum.”

 

Additional Information 

On April 3, Ferran López, who was chief Trapero’s number two during the October 2017, challenged the version of the facts given a few days before by Spain’s Civil Guard Colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos, the chief commander of all police forces during the referendum. Xavier Melero, the lawyer of the Catalan leader Forn, called for a careoa special face-to-face session confronting the two witnesses. 

Manuel Quintela, a senior Spanish National Police officer said that the referendum weekend was started with “music, pajama, and night hot chocolate parties.”

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.