Jailed Catalan Leader Oriol Junqueras Prepares an Appeal to the General Court of the European Union (EGC)

The defense of jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras is preparing an appeal in the General Court of the European Union (EGC) against the decision of the European Parliament to exclude him as Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Precautionary measures will be required for the EGC to suspend the decision of David Sassoli, President of the Euro-Chamber, and the court will have to determine whether to accept it within a few hours after the appeal is presented.

The General Court of the European Union (EGC) is a constituent Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It hears cases against institutions of the European Union by individuals and member states.

According to article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), any citizen can file an appeal against the acts of European institutions that directly affect him/her. The procedure for this appeal may take several months, but the precautionary measures will be pronounced immediately, a few hours after the petition has been registered. The EGC could accept or reject them. If they are accepted, the European Parliament will be obliged to recognize Junqueras as an MEP again.

The parallel route to the ECJ

In parallel with the appeal to the EGC, Junqueras’ defense will file an appeal against the Spanish Supreme Court’s decision to keep him in prison. If this move fails, Junqueras’ defense will appeal to the Spanish Constitutional Court for violation of his political and constitutional rights. The next and final step would be to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The Spanish National Police Followed and Spied on Catalan President Torra During Election Day on November 10

Catalan President Quim Torra was followed by Spanish police officers during the election day on November 10. In an exclusive interview at eldiario.es earlier this week, it is explained how presidential security members found that several vehicles followed the President during the election day.

The officers of the Mossos (Catalan police) detected that a Citroën C4 with three men followed the President when he was on his way to vote. When they approached the car, the three men claimed to be officers of the Spanish National Police, showed their identifying badges and said: “We are here for the same thing.” This was confirmed by sources of Mossos (Catalan police) at eldiario.es.

Upon returning from voting, the president’s escorts took an unusual itinerary because Torra had a personal visit to make; when suddenly, a Peugeot 308 which had ignored a traffic light was detected and stopped. The occupants identified themselves as Spanish police officers. When the presidential escorts asked them if they were following the president, they responded: “Oh, no. We, aren’t!” The escorts estimate that this Peugeot 308 followed them for 10 minutes over a stretch of 1.7 kilometers. The rest of the day no other suspect vehicles were detected.

The presidential security team reported these incidents through the channels of internal communication to the Barcelona-based Security Coordination Center (CECOR), the Coordination Center integrated by Mossos, the National Police and the Civil Guard.

The Interior Ministry Version

Sources from the Ministry of Interior deny any trailing of Torra. “No national police followed Torra, either that day or any other.”

The detection of police officers watching Torra has surprised his security team as it does not appear that the President has opened any other investigation against him, beyond the two already known for disobedience, which does not require surveillance or any other type of proceedings from the judicial police.

The Spanish Chamber’s Permanent Deputation Approves a Controversial Digital Decree

On Wednesday, the Spanish chamber’s Permanent Deputation approved the controversial digital decree, which grants the Spanish government the possibility of “shutting down” the Internet and intervening on servers and social media platforms without a court order in the case of exceptional circumstances: “public order, public safety and national security.” The decree was approved with the favorable votes of the Spanish “Socialist” party (PSOE), Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos (C’s) and the abstention of Unidas Podemos (UP).

Spanish acting PM Pedro Sánchez promoted the decree as a response to coordinated actions by the civil disobedience platform Tsunami Democràtic in the aftermath of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of the Catalan leaders jailed over the 2017 independence referendum. The decree; however, will also affect the rest of the Spanish state.

ERC and JxCat accused PSOE of promoting a “totalitarian” measure such as those implemented in countries like China, Saudi Arabia or Turkey.

MP Montse Bassa (ERC) warned that her group will bring this measure to European Courts and criticized “the repressive strategy of the PSOE.” Bassa also accused the Spanish State of chasing “political dissidence” and freedom of expression with an “arbitrary system that allows censorship and coercion of rights and freedoms.”

MP Laura Borràs (JxCat) denounced that the decree is a “digital coup” and accused the State of being “technophobic […] the Spanish State will have nothing to envy authoritarian states in the matter of the Internet.” Borràs also warned that the Catalan government would take the decree-law to the Spanish Constitutional Court due to the fact that the initiative “is a serious misuse of power.”

The pro-independence party CUP also denounced the approval of the decree. The anticapitalists criticized Unidas Podemos and Catalunya en Comú Podem for negotiating the coalition government with PSOE without any democratic conditions, such as abolishing the Mordassa law or modifying the digital decree. “It is nothing more than a continuation of the repressive actions of the Spanish state against dissidence.”

The approval and enforcement of the digital decree comes at a moment when Pedro Sánchez is negotiating his investiture with the pro-independence parties ERC and JxCat.

The Spanish State Can Shut Down Websites Without a Court Order in Cases of “Threats to Public Order”

Since Wednesday, the Spanish government has the authority to shut down websites without a court order in cases of urgent threats to “public order, public security and national security.” This is reflected in the decree promoted by the executive led by Pedro Sánchez, which was published in the Official Spanish Gazette (BOE) on Tuesday and became effective on Wednesday.

The Spanish government is now authorized to intervene or stop servers that host social networks or websites in cases of “public disorder.” This could already be done earlier, but only with a court order. With this modification, no “prior hearing” will be necessary, and there is a risk that the government will apply it to curtail basic fundamental rights, especially in cases of political dissidents and peaceful demonstrations.

These are cases enshrined in the decree where the Spanish government is authorized to shut down websites:

a) When there is an immediate and serious threat to public order, public safety or national security.

b) When there is an immediate and serious threat to public health.

c) When the alleged infringing activity could result in serious damage to the operation of the services of emergencies, public security and civil protection.

d) When it seriously interferes with the electronic communication of other services or networks.

e) When it might be used to provoke a serious economic or operational problem for other providers or users of electronic communications networks or services or other users of the radio spectrum.

According to the text the government can also intervene in elements that necessarily accompany “the installation or deployment of a network” or “a communications service.”

In this way it opens the door to interrupt any “infrastructure for public networks of electronic communications, its associated resources or any element or level of the network or the service in order to preserve or restore public order, public security and national security.” 

Parties from across Spain call for release of Catalan leaders

Last week representatives from the pro-independence parties JxCat, ERC, PDeCAT, Demòcrates, CUP, Crida Nacional per la República, EH Bildu, BNG, Més per Mallorca, Més per Menorca and Esquerra Valenciana signed a declaration in Barcelona calling for “reaching a political agreement” with the Spanish State that recognizes the right to hold a referendum on independence, to free the Catalan political prisoners, and to allow the safe return of exiles. They also called on the international community to “promote solutions” to the conflict.

The signatories of the document regret that full democratization of the State has not been possible after Franco’s dictatorship “due to the resistance of the old structures of the regime.”

The declaration states that the sentences on the jailed Catalan leaders “have serious effects in the exercise of fundamental rights of all citizens, leaving them seriously worried.”

The notable absences from this declaration were PNB and Compromís parties. The leaders from these organizations have recently abandoned the clear defense of the right to self-determination of Catalonia and the Basque Country. In exchange, they will have more economical power and capacity of decision on some regional matters.

What to Expect after the Upcoming Independence Trial Verdict

The Independence Trial verdict on the 12 Catalan leaders is expected to be announced tomorrow Monday. Mass demonstrations and political responses are expected if they are found guilty. Here’s a guide on what to expect in the hours and days following the verdict:

Catalan Government Response

President Torra has been saying for months that he will “not accept” the decision if the Catalan leaders are found guilty. He affirms that the parliament will articulate a response based on “democracy, self-determination and human rights.” However, he has not disclosed yet what this might mean.

Protests

Pro-independence organizations such as Òmnium and ANC have already called for “mass peaceful demonstrations” once the verdict is out, such as halting vehicles, using their horns, making noise, and protesting in the streets.

The ANC is also expected to call for demonstrations in undisclosed places that they will announce a few hours before the protests take place.

Marches

ANC and Òmnium will organize “Marches for Freedom” in the next few days after the verdict is out. They will kick off from the cities of Girona, Vic, Berga, Tàrrega and Tarragona, and each route will consist of walking 100 kilometers over three days, from Wednesday to Friday. This action is inspired by the historical marches of Gandhi’s Salt March and Martin Luther King Jr’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

General strike

The Catalan trade union Intersindical-CSC has called a general strike for Friday, October 18. The student’s union Sindicat d’Estudiants has also announced a three-day strike from October 16 to October 18.

Spanish Government Response

The Spanish government may suspend Catalonia’s self-rule, depending on the response from the pro-independence camp.  Spanish acting PM Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) appears to embrace the same repressive strategy as his right-winger predecessor Mariano Rajoy (PP).

ANC and Òmnium to Organize Five Massive Marches to Respond to the Upcoming Independence Trial Verdict

The pro-independence organizations Catalan National Assembly(ANC) and Òmnium Cultural have announced that they will organize five massive public marches from different parts of Catalonia to Barcelona. This will be “a countrywide response to the upcoming Independence Trial verdict demanding the freedom of political prisoners and exiles, against repression, and to claim the right to self-determination.” 12 Catalan leaders are expected to be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for organizing a referendum on independence in 2017.

Under the slogan Marxes per la Llibertat (Marches for Freedom), the action will take place in the days after the verdict is announced, on a date that the organizers will make public by then. The marches will start from five different locations: Girona, Vic, Berga, Tàrrega and Tarragona and will travel 100 kilometers on foot for three days until they arrive at the Catalan capital: Barcelona. According to the organizers, “the initiative is inspired by other historical peaceful marches such as Gandhi’s Salt March and Martin Luther King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

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On the first and second day, there will be two stages and on the third there will be only one because it is planned to arrive in Barcelona at noon. Each stage will begin and end in an urban nucleus in which a public breakfast, lunch and dinner will be offered at a symbolic price, and accommodation for the night will be free and people will continue the next day. ANC and Òmnium seek to involve the whole territory, in “a ‘transversal and ‘plural’ way to return the leading role of demonstrations to the citizens.” Citizens will be able to participate without the obligation to complete an entire march.

Aside from the marches, ANC and Òmnium will also organize demonstrations across the country the day of the announcement of the verdict, which is expected to be some time this week or on Monday. The demonstrations will be announced through social media specifying all the details.