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.

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.

 

 

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.

Spain’s King Felipe VI Maintains his Confrontational Discourse against the Catalan Independence Movement

In his speech for the ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution at the Spanish Congress on Thursday, Spain’s King Felipe VI maintained his confrontational discourse against the Catalan independence movement — over two million Catalans — and aligned himself with the far right-wing PP, C’s, and Vox parties against modifying the Constitution. His discourse comes amid the most serious crisis of legitimacy of the Spanish monarchy in the last 40 years.

The ceremony was attended by the current Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, his living predecessors, and the king’s parents. The Catalan independence parties ERC and PDeCAT did not attend it, arguing that the current Constitution is a “tool” to repress the Catalans. Members of the EAJ, EH Bildu, and CeC were also absent.

Felip VI’s speech was triumphalist, defining the 40 years of the Constitution as “the greatest and most successful period of contemporary Spanish history.” He also made a fierce defense of the Monarchy as “a symbol of the unity and permanence of the State.”

During the ceremony, the king called on the Spanish people several times to “preserve” and ” not to distort” the values of the Constitution, which he defined as a great pact for social harmony and reconciliation” which the rule of law is based on. Although the monarch didn’t mention the Catalan crisis directly, he argued that differences between Spaniards must be resolved through dialogue, even by going to court, and by fulfilling legal decisions. He insisted several times that this will happen with respect for the law, without any type of imposition.

Felipe also claimed that the monarchy is “indissolubly coupled with democracy and freedom.” He added that Spain, which is a “strong and fully consolidated democracy,” has experienced “very serious events” in recent years but that the Constitution “has prevailed.”

Once again, Spain’s King Felipe adopted an anti-Catalan rhetoric that will benefit supporters of independence and will bring his popularity to a historic low in Catalonia. By closing the door to modifying the Constitution in the near future, the King not only positioned himself against the will of the supporters of  Catalan independence who want to build a new republic, but also against the immense majority of Catalans: 83% who, according to recent polls, wouldn’t approve of the current Constitution if it was voted on today in a referendum.

The King’s speech shows the Catalans that there is not any possibility of the Spanish State accepting any of their demands, so it appears that the only possible way left for the Catalans to prosper and build better living conditions for the next generations is by implementing the republic.

Hard times where a repressive State – Spain – is willing to use violence to impose their ideas are coming, but with unity, courage, unilateralism, and determination, the Catalans will have a chance of achieving their long-desired republic.  

Jailed Catalan Leaders Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull Go On Indefinite Hunger Strike

The Catalan political prisoners Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull, leaders awaiting trial for last year’s referendum, announced earlier this Saturday they were starting an indefinite hunger strike to protest over their treatment by Spanish courts.

Official Declaration of Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull from Lledoners Prison 

<< We denounce:

the blockade of European justice that the Constitutional Court imposes upon us

Timely access to the courts without delay or unnecessary obstacles is a right that every person has. Failure to exercise this right with full guarantees and in fair conditions can lead to irreparable damages and damages to fundamental rights.

The cause investigated by the Spanish State on the Referendum of October 1, evidences a lot of affectations on our fundamental rights, including the presumption of innocence, freedom, political rights and the rule of law, a judicial process with all due guarantees. The violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are quite prominent in many of the resolutions that both the Supreme Court and the National Court have issued against us since October 16, 2017, when the first pre-trial detention orders were issued.

Our determination to have a fair, lawful trial is stronger than ever. We have not ceased to appeal all those violations of our rights that the Spanish courts have committed. But it is the international courts, and in particular the European Court of Human Rights, where today we deposit the trust to get justice.

The Constitutional Court (CC), however, blocks our access to European justice. The action of the CC is as simple as blatant: to accept 100% of our appeals for constitutional protection of fundamental rights, to be processed later on in order not to resolve any of them.

According to official data of the CC, the accepted number of appeals ranged between 1% and 1.5% of the total number of those presented. In our case, they are filed 100%, then forgotten in a drawer. The Spanish legislation (Criminal Procedure Act) and the doctrine of the same Constitutional Court, stipulate that the appeals against pretrial detention orders must enjoy preferential processing and must be resolved within a maximum period of 30 days. The first appeal for constitutional protection of our fundamental rights, accepted by the Constitutional Court against the pre-trial detention order decreed by the National Court, was filed on November 22, 2017, more than 365 days ago. An unjustified delay, and more so if we keep in mind the records of quick resolutions resolved by the Constitutional Court in several occasions, where it has met even on a weekend and only 24 hours after its intervention has been requested.

We ask for an impartial and diligent Constitutional Court, which should not impede the exercise of our rights. We denounce the blockade that the Spanish Constitutional Court de facto imposes upon us to access the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). We reaffirm our determination, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, to fully exercise our defense rights. We will never give up on our right to a fair trial.

We do not ask the Constitutional Court for any treatment of favor. But we do not passively accept any discrimination or unwarranted procrastination. The question is not even that the Court would rule in our favor, but simply that the appeals presented would be unblocked (by being not admitted or by simply being rejected). Only in this way, will the road to access Euro- pean justice be opened to us. We are well aware that the longer it takes for us to access the European Court of Human Rights, regaining our freedom will take longer as well.

We denounce the blockade of European justice imposed on us by the Constitutional Court. And we do so with all the strength and dignity of a line of political action strongly rooted in non- violence. Thus, we will resort to one of the few legitimate forms of protest that being imprisoned allows us; by conducting a hunger strike.

We will not do it against anyone, but in favor of creating awareness and fostering action to prevent the acceptance of something that is not normal as normal. The irregular functioning of the Constitutional Court is of severe seriousness in a State of Law. And that must appeal to all democrats, whichever their political choices are.

We ask for the attention and support of all the democratic people of Catalonia, Spain, Europe, and the World. We invite you to preserve the civic and peaceful attitude that has made us so strong over these years. We urge the”Smile Revolution” to flourish through events that will continue to be celebrated in Catalonia in the form of concentrations, “yellow dinners”, and concerts in the coming days and weeks. And we also ask for our hunger strike not to alter the spirit or celebration that these dates, close to Christmas and New Year’s Eve, bring to the majority of us.

We are grateful, finally, for the solidarity of all women and men who feel interpellated and committed to the effective defense of rights and freedoms, personal and collective.

 Together for dignity and until freedom is reached!

 Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Turull

Prison of Lledoners, December 1, 2018. >>

The Catalan Police Group Guilleries Warns that Spain’s Police Agents Participate in Far-Right Unionist Squads

On Friday, the Catalan police group, Guilleries, released a statement on Twitter where they reported that agents of the Spanish police Civil Guard had participated in a unionist far-right group meeting that had acted across Girona’s region (Catalonia) over the last few months. 

On Tuesday night, the Catalan police were alerted by an unnamed local source neighborhood of a far-right group meeting in a bar in Figueres (Girona) that was allegedly preparing to remove Independence symbology and yellow ribbons from numerous towns across the region of Girona.

When the Mossos arrived, they observed that two men from the group left the bar and got in a black color car. That’s when Catalan police followed and intercepted them. The surprise was when the two men in the car identified themselves as agents of the Spanish police Civil Guard.

According to the Mossos, these two agents were “nervous and cooperated very little.” They refused to give any explanation about why they were participating in a far-right group meeting. In this regard matter, the Catalan police demand that the Spanish Ministry for Home Affairs clarify what tasks are being carried out by the hundreds of Spanish police agents deployed across Catalonia that are not part of the ordinary staff. “It would be unacceptable that public resources are being spent to integrate police officers into squads aimed at provoking civil strife.” The Guilleries group of Mossos warns of the presence of Civil Guards infiltrated in extremist unionist squads.

Captura.PNG