Over 30 international organizations say that Spanish intelligence agency fails to comply with democratic standards

The use of Pegasus spyware against Europeans, Catalan leaders, human right defenders, lawyers, activists, and the general public has caused over 30 international human rights and civil liberties organizations to have expressed their rejection of the practice.

The organizations said that digital espionage is not “legal or democratic” and an independent investigation is needed to provide clarity.

“The software intercepts all the contents of the device; all apps used and when; as well as geolocation data,” explained Anaïs Franquesa, a human rights lawyer for Irídia.

The groups also called for proper regulation of Spain’s National Intelligence Center (CNI), criticizing the current rules as “vague, indefinite,” and falling short of “the standards of international human rights law.”

Gervanosi, the director of the international institute for nonviolent action NovAct, issued a warning about the widespread use of this technology. “The use of this technology is a flagrant violation of the right to privacy, brings a great deal of vulnerability to victims and involves the violation of the right to [legal] defense and professional secrecy in certain cases.”

Revealed: Massive Espionage of Catalans by Spain

Over 65 Catalan pro-independence leaders, activists and lawyers, as well as thousands of citizens have been massively spied upon by Spain, using the Israeli Pegasus spyware, according to revelations disclosed by the prestigious Canadian NGO, The Citizen Lab.

The attack on Catalan leaders is the largest in the world using the Pegasus spyware, which can only be bought by states. An important fact, which has not left anyone indifferent.

John Scott-Railton, a senior investigator at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab high-tech human rights abuses research group: “There is solid circumstantial evidence to suggest that the perpetrators of the espionage with Pegasus spyware is one or more entities in the Spanish government.”

List of some of the leaders affected by the espionage

Presidents

– Catalan President Pere Aragonès

– Former President Carles Puigdemont

– Former President Quim Torra

– Former President Artur Mas

Members of the European Parliament

– Clara Ponsatí (Junts)

– Antoni Comín (Junts)

– Diana Riba (ERC)

– Jordi Solé (ERC)

Catalan Civil Society

– Jordi Sànchez, former President of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC)

– Elisenda Paluzie, President of the ANC.

– Sònia Urpí, board member of the ANC.

– Jordi Cuixart, former President of Òmnium Cultural.

– Marcel Mauri, former Vice-President of Òmnium Cultural.

– Jordi Bosch, board member of Òmnium Cultural.

– Elena Jiménez, board member of Òmnium Cultural.

Lawyers

Gonzalo Boye, representing Puigdemont as well as many Catalan pro-independence figures.

– Andreu Van den Eynde, representing leaders such as Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Roger Torrent, and Ernest Maragall.

– Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, a lawyer who represented Carles Puigdemont.

Speakers

– Roger Torrent, former Parliament speaker.

– The current speaker, Laura Borràs.

Parties

– Esquerra Republicana (ERC): 12 members targeted

– Junts: 11 members targeted

– CUP: 4 members targeted.

– PDeCAT: 3 members targeted.

Collateral damage

The mass espionage of Catalan leaders, lawyers, and civil society figures has also affected thousands of ordinary citizens.

The Ghent Court of Appeal will Announce the Final Decision on the Extradition of Catalan Countries’ Rapper Valtònyc on May 17

The Ghent Court of Appeal in Belgium will announce the final decision on the extradition of Catalan Countries’ rapper Valtònyc on May 17, after re-examining his case.

The same court had already rejected his extradition last December, arguing that the crimes for which he was convicted in Spain – inciting terrorism, insults to the crown, and threats – did not fit within the Belgian penal code, an essential situation for the execution of an extradition order. However, the Belgian Court of Cassation scheduled another trial after an appeal was filed by the prosecutors, who represent Spain’s interests. The reason being to analyze whether insults to the Spanish crown would be the same crime as insults to deputies, ministers, and officials.

Valtònyc : “I think it is interesting that a court of the European Union is debating what is happening in Spain in relation to its freedom of expression.”

The rapper’s case already motivated the annulment by the Constitutional Court of a law of 1847 that protected the Belgian king from insults. This happened after the Ghent Court of Appeal asked the Belgian Constitutional Court whether the law of Lèse-majesté was constitutional, arguing that it did not respect freedom of expression.

In the hypothetical case that Belgian justice agrees on the extradition of Valtonyc, Spain could only make him comply with the sentence for the crime of insults to the crown.

The High Court of England and Wales Rules against Spain’s Former King Juan Carlos’ Immunity

The High Court of England and Wales ruled that former king of Spain Juan Carlos no longer has immunity and can be judged on British territory. The court argued that he is no longer a “sovereign” or “head of state” following his abdication in 2014.

The High Court (based in London) will now move forward with the former king’s ex-lover Corinna (Larsen) zu Sayn-Wittgenstein’s harassment allegations. The businesswoman filed a lawsuit against the former king in 2021 for “defamation, threats, and follow-ups” from 2012 to the present. She also denounced attempts by the Spanish Secret Services to enter her house and place a tracking beacon on her car.

Larsen said she suffered from “anxiety, humiliation, and moral stigma.” This led to the depression that isolated her from her kids, friends, and business partners.

“If the case goes further, the Defendant will have an opportunity to defend himself against any claims made towards him. Ultimately, the Court will hear evidence and make a decision after a trial,” the ruling reads.

The defendant, Juan Carlos, cited sovereign immunity, as a member of the Spanish royal household, to evade scrutiny. However, the court rejected his status.

“The fact that the Defendant has been granted a special constitutional status in Spain does not make him a sovereign,” the ruling reads. “Since he abdicated in 2014, the Defendant is not the head of state of Spain,” the court stated.

In the past few years, Spain’s former king Juan Carlos has been involved in several cases of corruption and money laundering.

The Brussels Court of Cassation Orders Extradition Re-Trial of Catalan Speaking Language Rapper Valtònyc

Following an appeal by the Belgian prosecutor’s office, the Court of Cassation of Brussels ordered a partial extradition re-trial of Josep Miquel Arenas, alias Valtònyc, on Tuesday. The Belgian high court asked to review the sentence issued by the Ghent Court of Appeal, which on December 28 rejected the extradition of the rapper, convicted in Spain for alleged glorification of terrorism, insults to the crown, and threats.

In the ruling, the Court of Cassation made it clear that the re-trial will be partial and will only focus on the alleged crime of insulting the crown on his song lyrics.

Valtònyc’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, believes his extradition will be refused again and made a clarification. “Court of Cassation case @valtonyc dismisses Ghent prosecutor’s appeal for crimes of glorification of terrorism and threats, orders return of case to Ghent Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision only for the crime of insulting the Crown” – Gonzalo Boye (@boye_g) January 18, 2022

In fact, the crime to be tried again, that of insulting the crown, took the court by surprise because it did not exist in Belgian law. There was a Belgian law against insulting the king, which dated from 1847 and imposed sentences of up to three years in prison. But the court itself had doubts about the application of this crime. It consulted its legality in the Constitutional Court, which ruled that it was unconstitutional because it did not respect freedom of expression and violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

In this way, the Belgian Constitutional Court overturned the law and at the same time broke the double criminality in Belgium and Spain that would have allowed the extradition for this crime.

Former Spanish Police Commissioner José Manuel Villarejo Says that the Spanish Intelligence Service Was Behind the 2017 Terror Attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils to “Scare” the Catalans

On Tuesday at the National Court of Spain, former Spanish police commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, said that the Spanish National Intelligence Service (CNI) was behind the 2017 terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils. He said the aim was to destabilize Catalonia before the independence referendum. However, the outcome of 16 deaths was a miscalculation.

“The CNI miscalculated the consequences of giving Catalonia a little scare,” said Villarejo during the trial of three of the branches of the Tandem case that is being heard in the Spanish National Court, the Court is reviewing several tasks that the former commissioner carried out.

Some analysts and media have been pointing out for years, that the attacks may have been intended to interfere with Catalonia’s independence referendum. Spain has always refused to investigate the matter.

Belgian Justice Rejects Extradition of Catalan Language Rapper Valtònyc

On Tuesday, the Ghent Court of Appeals rejected the extradition request for Catalan language rapper, Valtònyc, arguing that the crimes he was accused of are protected as free speech. Spanish “justice” sentenced him to three and a half years in prison for his song lyrics for the alleged crimes of insulting the crown, glorifying terrorism, and making threats.

The rapper’s lawyer, Simon Bekaert, was confident that the magistrates would not extradite his client to Spain. He considered the crimes that the rapper was accused of were protected as free speech. “Victory! After three years of legal procedures, an appeal to the European Court of Justice and to the Belgian Constitutional Court, the Court of Appeals ruled that Valtònyc cannot be extradited. It was a good day for music and freedom of expression.”

Valtònyc said that on a personal level he was “happy,” but at the same time, he felt “very angry and very helpless” about his fellow artists who are serving time in Spain for the contents of their lyrics. “If Spain is a fascist state and it’s back in the 18th century, it is because it wants to be,” he added.

The Ghent Court of Appeals asked the Belgian Constitutional Court over a year ago if Valtònyc’s prosecution was in violation of the principle of free speech. As a result, the Belgian Constitutional Court struck down the 1847 country’s own law against slander of the monarchy in October 2021 and ruled that the crimes the rapper was accused of was free speech.

Catalan Exiles Ask Spain’s Supreme Court Judge, Pablo Llarena, if He Has already Informed the Police that They Cannot Be Arrested in Spanish Territory

Earlier this week, the defense of exiled Catalan MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí, sent an official letter to Spain’s Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, asking whether he has already informed national police forces and the Interpol that they cannot be arrested.

The three-page letter from the exiles’ defense asks whether the necessary instructions have been issued to give effect to the suspension of the proceedings and the arrest warrants issued. Both, the European extradition orders and the legal proceedings against them were provisionally suspended by the EU Court of Justice, pending preliminary questions requested by the same judge Llarena.

This situation places the far-right Supreme Court magistrate in a complicated position. If he maintains that Catalan exiled leaders can be arrested, as he has already suggested, he will be violating EU laws. On the other hand, if he acknowledges that they cannot be arrested, he will pave the way for their return from exile.

Until now Llarena has maintained the criminal proceedings, the extradition orders, and arrest warrants, violating EU laws. However, a new resolution of the EU Court of Justice is very clear and says that it is irrelevant for Llarena to say that the criminal proceedings and extradition orders are active since EU justice has suspended them and EU laws have supremacy over national laws.

The court also sent a letter to Llarena, reminding him that his request for preliminary questions in March 2021 meant the immediate suspension of all proceedings againstthe exiled MEPs leaders.

The European United Left Denounces the Silence of the EU Commission on Spain’s Repression and Violations of the Rule of Law in Catalonia

A report of the European United Left denounces the silence of the EU Commission on the Spanish government’s violations of the rule of law in Catalonia. It concludes that the EU has no real will to protect the rule of law when allowing threats against the law and systematic abuses of power, as in the case of state repression against the Catalan independence movement.

The report, which was commissioned by MEP Clare Daly and drafted by the academic Albena Azmanova, denounces the “breaches of the law in Spain” that include the problems of judicial independence, the arbitrary imprisonment of pro-independence leaders, the persecution of those organizing demonstrations, the bail of 5.4 million euros for former officials from the Court of Auditors, and the illegal espionage of Catalan politicians using the Pegasus spyware.

The report concludes that the “deliberate silence” of the European authorities in the face of the violations of the Spanish state is likely to have a negative and far-reaching effect on the rule of law in the European Union, and that the reductive and legalistic analysis of the EU Commission on the rule of law in Spain favors the use of an instrument of oppression.

Belgium’s Constitutional Court Paves the Way for the Refusal of the Extradition of Exiled Catalan Language Rapper Valtònyc

Last week, the Belgian Constitutional Court ruled that the lèse-majesté law, which penalized insults to the crown, was unconstitutional. According to the high court, the 1847 law, which allows for up to three-year sentences for insulting the royal family, violates the right to freedom of expression as well as the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Article 19 of the Constitution prohibits freedom of expression from being subject to preventive restrictions,” says the Belgian Constitutional ruling, which adds: “By sanctioning words publicly expressed against the person of the king, article 1 of the law of April 6, 1847, constitutes an interference with the right to freedom of expression.” This ruling was in response to a question presented by the court of Ghent that must resolve the extradition case of the exiled rapper Valtònyc.

The rapper was sentenced in Spain to three and a half years’ prison for, amongst other things, insults to the crown in the lyrics of his songs. He decided to go to exile and appeal to the Belgian judiciary, which has now ruled that insults against the king are protected by freedom of expression.

Valtònyc celebrated the ruling in a Tweet in which he said his case had served the “collective good.” We have won and Belgium has removed the lèse-majesté from the criminal code. “I have always been clear that I wanted to put my case in the hands of those protecting fundamental rights for all. I did not lower my head and you have never left me alone. Thank you.”

“Victory. The constitutional court abolishes the criminal law on lèse-majesté, by declaring it contrary to freedom of expression. A historic step for our internal Belgian legal order, and good news for the Valtònyc extradition case,” said Simon Bekaert, Valtònyc’s lawyer.

The extradition of the rapper, which will be decided on November 23rd, at the Ghent Court of Appeal, thus becomes very unlikely.