On Wednesday, the Spanish “Socialist” Party (PSOE-PSC) once again blocked the creation of a commission of investigation into Juan Carlos, Spain’s former king’s illicit accounts. This came after the lawyers of Spain’s Congress endorsed such an investigation for the first time, contrary to what they had done before.
PSOE/PSC joined forces with the far-right Vox and the right-wing PP in the Congress Bureau in order to block the admission of the request to investigate the emeritus king in the chamber. It is a procedure that so far has not passed any similar request and that allows the issue to be raised in the Congress.
The request for the creation of a commission of investigation by Podemos argues that the facts to be investigated are subsequent to the abdication of the former monarch, and therefore the criterion of inviolability cannot be applied to him.
Minister of Health Salvador Illa
Spain’s Minister of Health Salvador Illa recently announced his presidential candidacy for PSOE/PSC in the next Catalan election, saying he will call for the formation of a new progressive government if he won the election. But the refusal of his administration to allow an investigation into the alleged corruption of the Spanish monarchy shows once again that his progressive rhetoric is just populist, not real, aimed at manipulating the public opinion to reach power by any means.
If this last episode of failure by this minister and his administration to be progressive is not enough to open people’s eyes, it is important to remember that he, himself, and a number of his colleagues also attended several demonstrations in Catalonia organized by the far right organization Societat Civil Catalana (SCC), some members of which have direct links with neo-Nazi squads.
Therefore, Illa’s victory in the next Catalan elections would be a victory of reactionaries, who if able to form a new government, would have a carte blanche to dismantle any sign of progress across the country.
50 international personalities, including five Nobel Prize laureates and UN dignitaries, have signed a manifesto promoted by the Catalan civic organization Òmnium Cultural calling for an amnesty for the jailed, exiled and prosecuted over the 2017 independence referendum.
The manifesto argues against the use of courts by Spain “to resolve a political crisis, and urges the Spanish government to end repression and to initiate sincere dialogue with Catalonia to find a political solution that would give the citizens of Catalonia the right to decide their own political future.”
Yoko Ono, Gerry Adams, Dilma Rousseff, Ai Wei Wei, and five Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Jody Williams, Mairead Corrigan, Shirin Ebadi, Elfriede Jelinek and Adolfo Perez Esquivel are amongst the 50 signatories of the manifesto calling for amnesty and the end of repression of Catalans by Spain.
This manifesto comes ahead of Catalan elections on February 14th, which are expected to see pro-independence parties securing an absolute majority with a strong possibility of obtaining over 50% of the total votes.
Earlier this week, the prosecutors of the Spanish Supreme Court Javier Zaragoza, Jaime Moreno, Consuelo Madrigal and Fidel Cadena informed the Supreme Court that they oppose the pardons for the pro-independence political prisoners because they do not observe reasons of “justice, equity or utility.”
The prosecutors also warned that “the enormous gravity of the facts and the proportionality of the sentences imposed must be borne in mind.” In fact, they believe that the lack of “obedience to the law” indicates that the political prisoners would commit the same crime [holding a vote: giving people the power to decide their own future through an independence referendum] again.
According to the Public Ministry, “in any case, it seems obvious that one of the minimum requirements for granting pardons is the ascertainment of a manifest acceptance of responsibility for the crime committed and the determined purpose of not reoffending as evidence of compliance with the violated legality. None of these circumstances have been proven in the present case,” concluded the prosecutor.
Having heard the position of the prosecutors, the Supreme Court must now send its report, which, like that of the prosecutors, is mandatory but not binding on the Spanish government, which has the final decision in its hands.
NOTE: The Spanish Supreme Court and the presiding body of the judiciary have leaned towards far-right positions in the last few years.
On Tuesday, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled by majority that insults to the Spanish flag are no longer considered freedom of expression, but a crime.
The divided Court was only able to pass the ruling by a single vote, but it established that indignities against the Spanish flag are crimes as they are not protected by the right to freedom of expression. It did so by dismissing an appeal filed by the trade union, Galician Intersindical Confederation, which was condemned for an offense against the flag in using phrases such as “here I heard the silence of the fucking flag” and “you have to set fire to the fucking flag.”
The trade union alleged that their freedom of expression has been violated. However, the court considered that these expressions were without the protection of fundamental rights.
Five of the court’s twelve judges voted against the decision: Andrés Ollero Tasara, Juan Antonio Xiol Ríos, Cándido Conde-Pumpido Tourón, Encarnación Roca Trías and María Luisa Balaguer Callejón.
Prestigious lawyers such as Gonzalo Boye are considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Last weekend, groups of neo-Nazis were seen in a demonstration organized by the Spanish far-right political party Vox, in Barcelona commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the Constitution.
The demonstration, led by the leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal, only amassed some 200 people. Some of the attendees were seen showing the Nazi salute repeatedly and waving; neo-Nazi and National Identity Front – Workers’ National-Socialist Spanish Party (FNI-PNSOE) Flags.
Hate Crime to be Reported
Several organizations have announced their intention to report it to the police and prosecutors as a hate crime, arguing that expressing support for fascism is not freedom of expression, but a crime.
Catalonia’s Home Affairs Minister, Miquel Sàmper, said that the police are already gathering information for a report to be sent to the prosecutor. “Democratic institutions cannot leave any leeway for acts against the law, such as professing fascism, which surpass the limits of freedom of speech.”
These events come just a few days after the messages from several former and high-ranking members of the Spanish Air Force in a WhatsApp group were leaked, including one saying: “There is no choice but to start shooting 26 million sons of bitches.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, says that is problematic if states do not follow UN recommendations in reference to the Spanish State’s failure to comply with the resolution of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions calling for the release of Catalan pro-independence political prisoners.
The annual report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions of the UN, released in September, already recalled that Spain had not implemented its request to release seven of the nine Catalan political prisoners: Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart, Oriol Junqueras, Quim Forn, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa.
The president of the UN Group, José Antonio Guevara, also insisted on the release of those seven political prisoners in the past and asked not to divert attention from this request, which he believed was “a most important issue.”
Spain’s former King Juan Carlos, who is currently under investigation for corruption and money laundering, pressured the Spanish government in order to receive special treatment, according to Spanish political figures.
In an interview for La Sexta network, the former Minister of Defense José Bono (PSOE) revealed how the former monarch pressured him to replace the then head of the General Staff of the Army Luís Alejandre. When Bono refused, the monarch personally directed a complaint towards the then Prime Minister of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE), despite the fact that the Spanish Constitution declares that the monarchy and the executive branch must be separate and free of interference.
Juan Carlos also called Bono during the latter’s time as Speaker of the Congress (2008-2011) to thank him after certain delicate parliamentary questions were rejected before they could be raised in the House.
In another interview for La Sexta, Former Minister Margallo (PP) defended Juan Carlos against criticism and praised his intense patriotism: “I have never met anyone who has the love for Spain that Juan Carlos de Bourbon has, his passion for Spain is truly emotional,” he said. Margallo asked that the reign of Juan Carlos not be judged based on alleged corruption and money laundering, holding that he was “key” for the consolidation of democracy in Spain.
Catalonia would vote “Yes” for Independence if a referendum were held today, according to the latest poll published by the Institute of Political and Social Sciences (ICPS), which is affiliated with the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
It showed that 44.4% of Catalans would vote “Yes”, 33.3% would vote “No”, 18.5% would abstain, and 3.3% do not know or would not answer. However, among those who would decide to go to the polls, 56.7% would vote “Yes” and 42.6% would vote “No”.
The ICPS survey also indicates that, in the preferences on the state model, 38.1% prefer an independent Catalonia, 25.9% would prefer Catalonia to be an autonomous community of Spain, and 19.4% would prefer Catalonia to remain a state within federal Spain.
Considering the individual political parties, most of the members of JxCat, ERC and CUP want the process to end with independence, while those of PSC and els Comuns would opt for increased self-government, and those of C,s and PP simply would like the process to end, although C,s voters are quite divided and almost half would also like an increase in self-government.
Tomorrow Monday, November 16th, the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs will start discussing whether to lift the immunity of Catalan leaders Puigdemont, Ponsatí and Comín. This comes at the request of Spanish authorities, who have openly expressed their desire to have them extradited in order to jail them for their roles in the 2017 independence referendum, even though Belgian justice recently rejected the extradition of exiled Catalan leader Lluís Puig arguing that the Supreme Court did not have the authority to issue a European arrest warrant against him.
The ultra-conservative Bulgarian MEP Angel Dzhambazki will be the head of the committee and will present the case, which will then be discussed by the rest of MEPs on the committee.
Monday’s session will be held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions. Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí will be summoned for a hearing at a later date. The debate on their immunity is expected to last for several months.
In the event Puigdemont, Comín and Ponsatí lose their immunity, they would still remain MEPs until a potential extradition and conviction barring them from office takes place.
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.