On Wednesday, Amnesty International (AI) demanded the immediate release of jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez. Both have been imprisoned since October 16, 2017, for participating in a peaceful demonstration on September 20, 2017.
AI made public that it sent a technical report to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Spanish State Attorney’s Office, the defense (lawyers) and the private prosecutors (Vox), which highlights the vagueness of the crime of sedition the Catalan leaders are accused of and insists that the sentence against them violates their freedom of expression and assembly. “They must be released immediately,” the organization said in a statement.
The document was provided just at the time the Constitutional Court accepted the appeal of the Catalan leaders to declare the sentence null.
AI considers the sentence a disproportionate restriction of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. It does not meet the requirements of international human rights instruments, such as art. 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and art. 11.2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, established to be able to impose restrictions on judgments of this type.
“The definition of the criminal act of sedition must be substantially revised to ensure that it does not unduly criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, nor does it impose disproportionate penalties on acts of peaceful civil disobedience,” said Esteban Beltrán, director of the NGO in Spain.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office has filed an appeal at the Barcelona High Court against the decision to grant jailed Catalan leader Jordi Sànchez permission, based on the article 100.2, to leave prison to work and volunteer for a few hours each week.
The prosecutor argues that prison sentences must serve to set a social example:
“The purpose of re-education and social reintegration indicated in article 25.2 of the Constitution has the purpose of special prevention and social intimidation to dissuade people in the commission of new crimes,” argues the public prosecutor.
“This means that when it comes to crimes considered serious, as analyzed here, the penalty must be identified by society and then affected as an effective sanction, in order to maintain confidence in the state of Law and in the good functioning of the Public Administration, affirming the maxim that Justice is equal for all,” he adds.
The prosecutor criticized the judge who endorsed the permission for Jordi Sànchez and scorned voluntary service of political prisoners. “If volunteering is the alternative to staying in a Penitentiary Center, the choice seems clear and lacks all merit,” he concluded.
The Constitutional Court has called for a session on May 6 to decide, amongst other matters, whether to admit writs of appeal by seven of the nine Catalan political prisoners: Jordi Turull, Jordi Sànchez, Josep Rull, Jordi Cuixart, Dolors Bassa, Carme Forcadell and Joaquim Forn.
The Catalan leaders are appealing against their conviction last October forsedition and misuse of public funds. This appeal, which is expected to be admitted but put on standby, is the preliminary step that will enable the political prisoners to appeal their convictions to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg – a process that usually takes between 4 and 7 years.
The nine leaders were convicted last October for their role in the 2017 independence referendum. Their sentences prompted massive social unrest across the country, which ended with hundreds of detentions and prosecutions.
The two political prisoners who will not be part of the May hearing, Oriol Junqueras and Raül Romeva, appealed their sentences last year.
Last week the Chief of Staff of Spain’s Civil Guard, José Manuel Santiago, said that the body he oversees is working to “minimize the dissatisfaction with the [Spanish] government and its management of the [health] crisis.” Later, he said that his words were misinterpretedand he added that in his 40-year career he had “learned that people come first.”
On Monday, Cadena Ser revealed that the Civil Guard Chief received an email from the Spanish interior ministry on April 15, urging the paramilitary police body to identify fake news likely to create “hostility to government institutions.”
The intent of this email was to prepare a monographic report “with the purpose of being addressed in future meetings by the head of the ministerial department.” The email also asks for the inclusion of cyber crimes, repeated investigations of such crimes and complaints regarding online sales of products such as masks.
This report would be carried out by the Cybersecurity Coordination Unit, which in previous reports has described disinformation as “a set of publications on the Internet, mainly on social networks, of false news, half truths and highly subjective information with a destabilizing purpose of breaking down trust in public powers and representatives.”
Cadena Ser also revealed the existence of another email from the Civil Guard sent to the different command headquarters all across the country on April 15, urging its officers to identify fake news “likely to cause social distress and disaffection towards government institutions.”
Spain’s Civil Guard sources assured Cadena Ser that this strategy has been used in other “social conflicts” with the aim of informing the Government of false news with a destabilizing purpose, and identifying any criminal acts for referral to the judge or the prosecutor.
Spain’s Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, said earlier this week that the Spanish government is looking to use its citizens’ mobile phone geolocation data to control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (Covid-19).
Campo said that there are other countries applying the same measures. “The Data Protection Agency tells us that there is no violation during a situation like this and it seems reasonable to us that when someone is positive and reluctant [to be confined] we establish some mechanism,” he said.
In this sense, he referred to the possibility of forcing the isolation of individuals that have tested positive (for Covid-19) who do not want to isolate themselves. “The emergency state does not lower the rule of law and, in cases like this, they would ask the relevant departments to act,” he said in relation to the enablement of public facilities and hotels to isolate asymptomatic individuals.
In any case, he also said that everything cannot be “homogenized” and the government considers the assumptions of the people who want to access these spaces “voluntarily” because they cannot do it elsewhere.
Many organizations, political parties and citizens have raised concerns about what they think will be a tool that will be in force beyond the state of emergency. The Spanish government could use this tool against political dissenters, they warned.
Ministry of Truth (1984)
Campo also vowed to review all legal instruments in order to penalize anyone who spreads false information and “contaminates public opinion.” The minister defended the citizens’ right to truthful information and said that it is even more important in an emergency situation when he believes that fake news can do “harm.” Thus the Spanish government would decide what can and cannot be published jeopardizing citizens’ freedom of expression and political dissent.
Juan Carlos I, Spain’s former king, closed an account in a Swiss Bank in June, 2012, because the government had tightened the anti-corruption legislation. This is stated in the international letters rogatory that the Swiss Prosecutor’s Office sent to the judge of the Villarejo case, Manuel García-Castellón. It was reported by El País newspaper on Monday.
The prosecutor Yves Bertossa declared that the account of the Lucum Foundation, whose first beneficiary is Juan Carlos I, was closed “due to the new Swiss tax legislation” and adds that the then head of state “signed an order to transfer the balance of Lucum’s account to Corinna Larsen (the ex-lover of Spain’s former King) in the name of Solare Investors Corporation at Gonet and Cie Bank in Nassau, Bahamas.”
In this way, Corinna Larsen kept the funds of the Lucum Foundation, whose second beneficiary is the current head of the Spanish State, Felipe VI. The king of Spain was informed a year ago by Corinna Larsen’s lawyers of his situation and then, according to the Royal Household, he went to the notary to renounce his father’s inheritance, although experts in Civil Law emphasize that it is just a gesture because you cannot give up the living inheritance of the owner of the money.
Prosecutor Bertossa is investigating an alleged crime of “aggravated money laundering” and the alleged payment of commissions for the work of the AVE from Medina to Mecca built by a consortium of Spanish companies led by OHL. According to the prosecutor, the winning bidders had granted in their offer a “30 percent discount” for the alleged intercession of the king, who would have taken 64.8 million euros in exchange.
On Monday, Spain’s King Felipe VI renounced his inheritance from his father and stripped the former King Juan Carlos of his £175,000-a-year royal income in order to save himself amid a growing social repulsion against the monarchy. The calls for his abdication following a finance scandal served as a catalyst for the new king to take drastic action.
Swiss prosecutors are investigating an offshore account allegedly operated for Felipe VI’s father Juan Carlos, 82, which is suspected to have received €88 million from Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah in 2008. According to the newspaper La Tribune de Genève, prosecutors believe the fund could be linked to kickback payments after the former monarch helped to broker business deals with Saudi Arabia while still in power.
On Saturday, March 14, The Telegraph reported that Felipe was named as a beneficiary of an offshore fund that controls the Swiss account with an alleged 65 million euro gift ($72 million USD) from Saudi Arabia, given to his father when he was on the throne. In 2012, around $65 million (€57 million) was transferred from this account to Corinna Larsen, a Monaco-based businesswoman and ex-lover of Juan Carlos.
Larsen told the investigators in 2018 that the money was a donation from the former king after a recording emerged in which she allegedly claimed she was a frontwoman Liaison for his portfolio abroad for his assets abroad.
The reports also say that she will file a lawsuit against the former head of Spanish intelligence, Félix Sanz Roldán, for allegedly organizing an intimidation campaign against her continually, from 2012, when he learned of her relationship with the former king.
The Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police) has concluded that the rubber bullet that seriously injured Roger Español, who lost an eye, in Barcelona on October 1st, 2017, was the second shot by a Spanish police officer in that area. This report was presented before the judge at the case open by the Court of Instruction No. 7 of Barcelona and was ratified by the authors. The report also identifies the officer involved in the two shootings, which coincides with a private expert report commissioned by the defense of Español and the Iridia Center for the defense of human rights. Specifically, it was agent UC563.
According to judicial sources, the agents have explained to the judge that for the identification of the gunman in question they have made two analyses: one of clothing and other of traceability.
The dress analysis has identified the gunman who shot Español by several elements that differentiate him from his companions: he does not wear shin guards, has the ammunition bag open and wears gloves.
The recordings and photographs show two consecutive sequences: in the first you see the officer pointing at Español just as he is about to hit a flat object lying on the ground towards the police line. The Mossos say that the officer shot at him at this time, although they do not specify if it was only a projectile or a rubber bullet. After that, Español returned to the sidewalk.
In the second sequence, the identified gunman makes the same movement and disappears from view behind containers on the same sidewalk where Español is located. After several moves, he shoots for the second time. In this case, it was a rubber bullet that hit Español.
The fact that Español was shot at more than once reinforces the thesis that this was not a random response, as the now-identified officer stated earlier this week in court. This would allow him to be tried at the felony of intentional injury and not recklessness.
Carlos Vidal, one of the members of the Spanish Electoral Board (JEC) who voted to disqualify the President of the Generalitat, Quim Torra, and MEP Oriol Junqueras, was a member of the right-wing party PP until a few weeks before his appointment, InfoLibre informs.
When asked by InfoLibre, Vidal admits that he did not mention that he was a member of PP to members of the Congress because he no longer had a party membership. “Nothing should be mentioned,” he says. In addition, he says that he did not intend to abstain from voting on pro-independence politicians because he believes “there was no reason to do so.”
This information comes after the scandal of Andrés Betancor, another JEC member who worked as a C’s party advisor while also fulfilling his duties in the central electoral body. He participated in the exclusion of the candidature of Carles Puigdemont in the 2019 European elections and banned the nominations of exiled Catalan leaders Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí.
President Quim Torra, who has filed a lawsuit agaisnt Andrés Betancor for prevarication and election crime, has also spoken on the news about Carlos Vidal and the PP party in a tweet: “Everyone has the right to have their cause heard equally and publicly and within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court …” Art 47. Letter of Fundamental Rights EU. PP members judging us. How far Europe is!”
The former Spanish Foreign Minister, Josep Borrell, hired seven communication agencies from the United States, Belgium, United Kingdom, Switzerland, France, Mexico and Germany respectively to improve the international image of Spain. This has been confirmed by the Pedro Sánchez administration in response to a parliamentary question by EH Bildu MP Jon Iñarritu.
Last October, Ambassador Santiago Cabanas of the Spanish embassy in Washington announced that it had hired the Glover Park Group agency to “strengthen the communications policy in a difficult time.” He asserted that the independence story was one of the challenges to be countered. The monthly contract was worth fifteen thousand euros.
“It should be noted that similar contracts have been signed, more or less simultaneously, of the same duration and with the same objective, through our embassies in France, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Mexico,” said the Spanish executive.
The Spanish government says that these types of contracts “are not uncommon in the Spanish state’s foreign action” and that they focus on many different areas. For example, the Spanish administration describes Spain’s image in the USA as “very positive.” In this regard, they limit the agreement to the goal of “reinforcing the relationship with American media and opinion leaders.”
Here is the full responsefrom the Spanish government to Jon Iñarritu: