Spain’s Judiciary Head Carlos Lesmes Criticizes the Pardoning of Catalan Leaders

Earlier this week, the President of Spain’s Supreme Court and the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Carlos Lesmes, criticized the Spanish government for granting partial and reversible pardons to nine Catalan pro-independence leaders who were sentenced to a decade in prison for exercising fundamental rights during the 2017 independence push.

“It has come to oppose, to explain indulgence, concord in the face of resentment, as if the action of justice in enforcing the law were an obstacle to coexistence,” said the president of the Supreme Court, and insisted that the judges’ task does not correspond to the idea of taking revenge or the expressing resentment. Justice is not and never has been an obstacle to peace, but the instrument to safeguard peaceful coexistence among citizens.”

Lesmes also called on the two largest Spanish political parties, the neoliberal “Socialist” Party (PSOE) and the right-wing Popular Party (PP) to reach an agreement on renewing the Council of the Judiciary. However, he has been ignoring calls for him to step down in order to force the renewal, despite the fact that his democratic mandate expired over 1,000 days ago. This phenomenon is not seen in a truly democratic country.

The PP already announced that it does not intend to facilitate the renewal of the council and PSOE accuses them of having hijacked the body. Specifically, a reinforced majority of three-fifths of the Cortes is required in order to renew the 21 members, who are “prestigious” judges or jurists. They are appointed by Congress (10) and Senate (10), and elect their president, who is currently Carlos Lesmes.

Lesmes and the majority of members of the Council are conservative judges with links with the PP and the far-right Vox. Both parties are trying to block all efforts to appoint new members since the council is an effective tool for them to use against progressive forces and pro-independence movements.

Whether the EU will sanction Spain for this non-democratic situation is still unknown, but what is certain is that this situation is only found in authoritarian regimes.

Dialogue between the Catalan and Spanish Governments to Start on September 16 or 17

The negotiations between the Catalan and Spanish governments aimed at resolving the ongoing conflict will start on September 16 or 17. The Spanish government has refused to allow discussion of amnesty and independence as part of the talks. This position on amnesty and self-determination undermines the negotiations since amnesty is the only possible solution for over 3,300 Catalans who are enduring judicial proceedings for exercising fundamental rights, and because self-determination is the only possible way to meet the demands of 80% of Catalans who want an independence referendum.

The Catalan delegation led by President Pere Aragonès, though skeptical, insisted that their proposal will be amnesty and self-determination. The President also warned Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez of the possibility of his party, the Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC), withdrawing their support in Congress if there is no progress or if he doesn’t attend the negotiations – he hasn’t confirmed his attendance yet. This move could force snap elections in Spain.

Division on the Catalan side

There is an existing division on the Catalan side on how to tackle the negotiations. On the one hand, ERC desires to give the negotiations a chance to “earn international legitimacy,” especially if as a result of the Spanish vetoes, unilateral steps are taken in later stages. On the other hand, the socialist pro-independence party, the Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), and Together for Catalonia (Junts) believe the negotiations have already failed due to the unwillingness of the Spanish government to resolve the ongoing conflict, as shown by the refusal of the Spanish government to discuss amnesty and self-determination.

While they are willing to sit at the negotiating table due to their agreements with ERC, they also demand that the Catalan delegation quit the negotiations if there is no progress in the upcoming months. “There is no need to wait for two years if the Spanish government doesn’t show willingness to resolve the ongoing conflict.” CUP also calls on the movement to prepare for unilateral action when the negotiations fail in order to prevent “the mistakes of 2017.”

Division between civil society organizations

Civil society organizations have also shown different views of the negotiations. While the Catalan National Assembly (ANC) believes that the Spanish government has no intention of negotiating in good faith, and is simply participating as a publicity stunt as a propaganda effort, Òmnium believes that forcing Spain to dialogue is already a success that must be explored, without excluding unilateralism for later stages if the negotiations fail. In addition, its President Jordi Cuixart believes that the Catalan pro-independence movement should show unity during the negotiations and support preparations for unilateral actions.

To some extent, all Catalan pro-independence parties and organizations are aware that the negotiations are doomed to fail and that unilateralism will have to be resumed sooner or later. As always, the citizens of Catalonia will have the power to accelerate or delay the process. If there is no progress in the negotiations, demonstrations in the upcoming months will determine whether civil society is strong to exert enough pressure on the Catalan government in order to resume unilateralism.

The Catalan pro-independence movement will only have a chance to succeed if civil society is stronger than the political parties and leads the process itself. If strong enough, parties will be forced to follow them.

Mass Demonstration Expected for the National Day of Catalonia on September 11

The Catalan National Assembly (ANC) will organize a mass demonstration in Barcelona for the National Day of Catalonia on September 11. This year, the demonstration will start at Plaça d’Urquinaona at 5pm and will end in front of the Catalan Parliament. The banner will be “Let’s fight and win independence.” The intention is to vindicate the 2017 independence referendum and to put pressure on the Catalan pro-independence government to move forward towards independence. 52% of Catalans voted for independence in the last elections.

The organizers have made it clear that the health measures established by the PROCICAT committee will be fully complied with. No prior registration, unlike past years, will be required to participate in the demonstration. The organization also recommends people gather half an hour before the beginning of the demonstration, at 4.30 pm.

Organizers: “There is a need to mobilize again. Pardons for political prisoners are not the solution or the end of the conflict. We are once again showing the world that Catalonia is moving.”

President of the ANC, Elisenda Paluzie: “We need to activate the citizens to put pressure on the institutions and convey that only by fighting will we achieve independence.”

Catalonia Offers to Welcome as Many Afghan Refugees as Necessary

The Catalan pro-independence government has offered to receive as many Afghan refugees as needed. In an interview for ACN, Catalan president Pere Aragonès said that Catalonia is open to help with the “humanitarian emergency” caused in Afghanistan and assume its international obligations: “We have a humanitarian obligation regarding the situation in Afghanistan. We must prepare because there will be a wave of exiles and a need to offer asylum and refuge to hundreds of thousands of people. Catalonia will always be a land of welcome and freedom.”

The President also urged the Spanish government to speed up all procedures to recognize the right of refugees to seek asylum in Catalonia. “Spain must put a lot of resources” into defending the right for international protection,” he added.

The Catalan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Victòria Alsina, also sent a letter to the Spanish authorities urging them to issue humanitarian visas for Afghans in danger.

“Welcoming those who fled their country because their lives are at risk is not an option, it is an international obligation,” a part of the letter reads.

Tania Verge, Minister for Equality and Feminism: “The EU and Spain must comply with the obligation to provide international protection to refugees from Afghanistan. We will continue to have humanitarian crises until we understand that to have peace, it must be built.”

Laura Borràs, Speaker of the Catalan Parliament: “I call on international organizations such as the European Union and the United Nations to act decisively in defense of the Afghan citizens who are victims of this war and, in an even more resolute way, not to forget Afghan women.”

Catalan Government Sends Reports to the UN, Denouncing the Violation of Fundamental Rights by Spain

The Catalan government’s Directorate-General for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (DGDH), which is integrated into the Ministry for Equality and Feminism, has sent two reports to the UN, denouncing the violation of fundamental rights by Spain.

The reports defend the “need to modify the Court of Auditors and the law on sedition in Spain to protect the right to protest, and preserve the freedom of expression, political participation, and the principle of effective judicial protection.”

One document states that the Court of Auditors is extremely limited in its functions and that “its members’ election system is biased and its jurisdictional function, detached from ordinary justice.” The other document argues that the current concept of sedition in the Penal Code opens the door to criminalizing the exercise of fundamental rights and, after comparing sedition regulations in 17 countries, concludes that “the Spanish definition has no counterparts in the European context and obeys criteria of criminalization and punishment out of date with respect to European standards.”

Both documents have been delivered to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, with the aim of incorporating the report into the one she will present to the Human Rights Council to address the need to increase protection of peaceful protests during crisis situations.

A Year Since Former King Juan Carlos Fled Spain Over Allegations of Corruption

“Now, guided by the conviction of giving the best service to the Spaniards, to their institutions and to you, as King, I inform you of my deliberate decision to move, for the time being, out of Spain.” With these words, the Emeritus King of Spain, Juan Carlos I, informed the current monarch, Felipe VI, that he was fleeing the state pushed by allegations of corruption, illegal commissions, and money laundering. This move was made to evade justice and to clean up the image of his son and the remaining monarchy.

The ex-king is currently living a life of luxury on Zaya Nuri Island, a 15-minute boat ride from Abu Dhabi, as revealed by Spanish media. “It is an exclusive refuge for potentates, with a five-star hotel complex and eleven large mansions, where restaurants and leisure venues do not have opening hours, but open when their select clientele wishes to visit them. The mansion where the King Emeritus is staying has 1,050 square meters and 4,100 more plots, with six bedrooms, seven toilets, a swimming pool, and access to a private beach.”

Juan Carlos is under the protection of his friend Mohamed bin Zayeb Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince and strongman of the United Arab Emirates and the Spanish state that, despite all the cases of corruption is still providing him personal security through a permanent escort of four agents of the Spanish Civil Guard, to whom the Spanish Ministry of the Interior pays the allowances, salary and travel expenses. To make matters worse, he also has three shift assistants. A cost that has not yet been determined because the Spanish government has refused to make it public.

Investigations on the corruption of Juan Carlos

Illegal commissions

In June 2020, the Supreme Court Prosecutor’s Office started an investigation against Juan Carlos for alleged crimes of money laundering and tax crime. It involves the possible commission of one hundred million dollars for his mediation to give a Spanish company the contract for the construction of a high-speed rail line AVE to join the cities of Medina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The millions ended up deposited in the Mirabaud bank in Geneva, Switzerland, in an account owned by an offshore company called the Lucum Foundation – which disappeared in 2012 – of which Juan Carlos was the first beneficiary and his son the second, though the latter ended up renouncing his personal inheritance from his father after it was alleged that he was set to receive millions of euros from a secret offshore fund linked to Saudi Arabia.

Royal black cards

The second case investigates the expenses with opaque credit cards of Juan Carlos and a few relatives. These funds allegedly came from Nicolás Murga Mendoza, assistant to the emeritus king and colonel of the Spanish Air Force, who supposedly acted as an iron fist to facilitate the family’s access to the money of Mexican millionaire Jesús Sanginés-Krause. Bank movements and expenses were made after the abdication of Juan Carlos, so it was no longer inviolable. In relation to this point, the lawyers of the emeritus communicated on December 9 a regularization payment of 678,393.72 euros to the “Tax Authorities” in an attempt to evade justice.

Hidden money on the Island of Jersey

The Public Ministry opened a third investigation seeking to find out whether Juan Carlos hid ten million euros on the island of Jersey. This investigation was opened after receiving a report from the Executive Service of the Bank of Spain’s Money Laundering Prevention Commission (SEPBLAC) on a “hidden fortune.”

Additional Investigations

Switzerland

Prosecutor Yves Bertossa opened an investigation on the offshore structures with which Juan Carlos allegedly managed the “donation” from the Saudi monarchy and other expenses through the entities Zagatka and Lucum. Bertossa is also investigating the donation of part of this money to his ex-lover Corinna Larsen, who sued the monarch and the Spanish secret services before the British High Court for subjecting her to illegal “surveillance” in the United Kingdom “from 2012 to the present.”

Arms trafficking and tax evasion

A recent journalistic investigation published in the newspaper Público indicates that the emeritus would have enriched himself through tax evasion and arms trafficking, as well as through the collection of commissions through a network of businessmen and magnates such as the Saudi Adnan Khashoggi or the king of Saudi Arabia, Salmán Bin Abdulaziz.

Former Speaker of the Catalan Parliament and Three Former Members of the Bureau Summoned to Testify Before the High Court of Justice of Catalonia on September 15th Over an Alleged Crime of Disobedience for Allowing Two Debates

The former Speaker of the Parliament of Catalonia, Roger Torrent, and the former members of the Bureau, Josep Costa, Eusebi Campdepadrós, and Adriana Delgado, have been summoned to testify before the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC), a court controlled by pro-Spain judges, on September 15. They are all under investigation for an alleged crime of disobedience for admitting to proceedings and allowing the text of two resolutions to be debated in a plenary session: one in favor of the right to self-determination, on November 12, 2019, and the other to reprove King Felipe, on November 26, 2019.

The resolutions were supported by the pro-independence parties ERC, Junts, and CUP. One of the texts stressed that parliament “reiterates and will reiterate as many times as MPs choose, the disapproval of the monarchy, the defense of self-determination, and the affirmation of the sovereignty of the people of Catalonia to decide their political future.”

In the writ, they are accused of contravening Spain’s Constitutional Court and authorizing votes that were deemed unlawful. The court says that the ruling of the Spanish Constitutional Court of December 2, 2015, declared unconstitutional and null the resolution 1/XI of the parliament of November 9, 2015, on the beginning of the political process in Catalonia as a result of the outcome of the September 27 elections.

The Constitutional Court agreed to suspend parliamentary resolutions and reminded the Bureau of its duty to prevent and paralyze any parliamentary initiative that ignores or evades this suspension. The court also warned them that they could incur responsibilities, including criminal if they failed to comply. The prosecution considers that the four defendants breached this order when they allowed the two debates. If found guilty of disobedience, they could all face a ban from public office.

In a message posted on social media, Torrent says that “the repressive machinery is still in place to limit and pursue freedom of expression,” and argues that “Parliament is the temple of speech and debate” and that they want to censor it, this “goes against democracy.”

Spain Accused of Spying on Catalans

The “SOURGUM” malicious software package has been used to spy on Catalan citizens, according to Microsoft. The firm says that its intelligence center MSTIC has found out that “the Israeli private-sector actor has been hired by governments in order to spy on over 100 people around the world, including politicians, human rights activists, journalists, academics, embassy workers, and political dissidents.”

Exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and the president of the Catalan cultural organization Òmnium Jordi Cuixart are among the victims. “The Spanish state violates the right to privacy: it is obvious: they know everything about us,” says Cuixart.

The Catalan government has accused the Spanish government of spying on Catalans


President Aragonès: “Afterwards they get angry when they are put at the same level as Turkey in terms of human rights.”

Vice-President Jordi Puigneró: “Controlling Catalans, a curious ‘reconciliation’ agenda led by the Spanish executive.”

This revelation comes a year after The Guardian and El País revealed that the phones of Catalan parliament speaker Roger Torrent and other pro-independence activists were targeted using the Pegasus spyware that experts say is only sold to governments to track criminals and terrorists.

Spain’s Supreme Court Rejects Precautionary Annulment of Pardons for Catalan leaders

On Tuesday, the Spanish Supreme Court rejected the request from the far-right party Vox and the neoliberal party Ciudadanos (C’s) to annul the pardons for nine Catalan leaders as a precautionary measure while their appeals are assessed. Thus, the contentious administrative chamber ruled out for now ordering the reimprisonment of the nine pro-independence leaders.

The court believes that annulling the pardons as a precautionary measure could lead to “harmful and irreversible situations that could potentially violate the rights of the Catalan leaders,” arguing that the court could end up endorsing the pardons. Therefore, the court concluded that, “in assessing the conflict of interests, the request to suspend the pardons as a precaution pending a final decision is not acceptable.”

The court, however, has not ruled yet on the legitimacy of Ciudadanos (C’s) and Vox’s appeals against the pardons because this issue is not part of the resolution of precautionary measures, as stated by the Spanish state attorney. There are many doubts among jurists as to whether the parties are entitled to file appeals on pardons. For this reason, the appeal of C’s was presented by three MPs who were in the Parliament of Catalonia during the pro-independence push in 2017.

The Spanish Government Wants to Enforce Dangerous Reforms which Will Change the Country’s National Security Laws

The Spanish government (PSOE-UP) is planning to reform a law that would allow them to mobilize all adult citizens from Spain in case of a serious crisis. According to the newspaper El País, any adult would have to obey the rules set up by the Spanish Security Council to perform “social tasks.” If the law passes the government will be able to seize almost everything, they will be able to seize property such as houses and companies. They will also be able to seize citizens’ bank accounts and potentially spread misinformation via the media.

This reform is based on Article 30 of the Spanish Constitution, which states that “the Spaniards have the duty and the right to defend Spain.” The “social tasks” would be regulated by the obsolete article that defended compulsory military service, which was suspended in 2001, which states that “the duties of citizens may be regulated in cases of serious risk, catastrophe, or public crisis.” According to the document, the President would also be able to declare a state of emergency without the approval of Congress.

These dangerous reforms could be used by the far-right in the future to install an authoritarian government and quell any form of dissent, which could potentially bring the country back to Francoism times. This could happen soon since according to recent polls, the conservative PP and the far-right Vox will get an absolute majority in the next Spanish election in two years.