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.
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.
Spain’s King Emeritus Juan Carlos, who fled the country after being accused of money laundering and corruption, has sealed a deal with the royal house and the Spanish government to return to Spain in February, according to the Spanish media.
The former king’s return comes after all accusations against him were suspiciously and suddenly withdrawn by Spanish and Swiss justice. It means he will have total freedom and impunity from those charges in Spanish territory. His return is expected to be discreet in order to avoid the social unrest that has been mounting over the years as the monarchy have been involved in several cases of corruption over the last decade.
King Felipe, who already has an authoritarian image after endorsing repression against national minorities and more precisely Catalonia, is expected to keep distant from his father in an initial attempt to improve his image and avoid social tensions against him. However, he has authorized his father’s return to Spain. This is likely going to cause more social unrest over the next few months.
Whether or not social unrest is avoidable or will grow over the next few months remains a mystery. But what is clear is that the only possible solution for the citizens to recover trust in democracy and institutions is to have a say in the future of the monarchy.
As the monarchy was imposed by a dictator, a referendum would give the citizens a chance to freely decide whether to support the current monarchy or to turn a new page and implement a republic that could represent all citizens.
The High Court of Justice (TSJC) has sentenced the pro-independence MP and Parliament Bureau member, Pau Juvillà (CUP), to a 6-month ban from holding public office and a fine of €1,080. He is accused of disobedience for not removing a few yellow ribbons from his office when he was a councilor of the Lleida City Hall in 2019.
Yellow ribbons have represented solidarity with political prisoners and exiles since 2017, when Catalonia organized a self-determination referendum, which was repressed by the Spanish state.
The unionist Ciudadanos party filed a complaint against Juvillà to the Electoral board for displaying what they described as partisan symbols, though they represented the whole society, during an electoral period. The councilor refused to take them down and the police eventually did it.
During the trial, Juvillà alleged that, as a councilor of the Lleida City Hall, he did not take down the ribbons, so as not to self-censor or injure ideological freedom.
The public prosecutor had requested an 8-month disqualification from public office as well as a €1,440-fine. Due to Juvillà becoming an MP in the Catalan Parliament following the February 14 elections, the case had to be tried in the High Court.
The CUP party reacted to the ruling, demanding a “clear, forceful and joint response” from Parliament against repression and “defending the sovereignty of the chamber and elected officials.” The far-left party wants to use all judicial approaches available and will present an appeal to the Supreme Court, and also plans to take the case to Strasbourg.
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, has denied any link between the EU intelligence agency and the New York Times report on the links between the Kremlin and the Catalan independence movement. This comes following a EU parliamentary question raised by exiled Catalan MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí.
A September article in the “New York Times” stated that trusted sources from the EU INTCEN, and EU intelligence agency, had confirmed to them that Josep Lluís Alay, Head of Office of exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, had traveled to Russia to gain the Kremlin’s support for independence. The article also falsely suggested that Russia was behind the civil disobedience platform Tsunami Democràtic.
Exiled President Puigdemont and his Head of Office, Alay, denied the accusations and challenged the newspaper to show evidence. Political parties in Spain, including the far-right and neo-Nazis, used it to launch an international smear campaign against the independence movement. Puigdemont tweeted that the disengagement of the intelligence agency “should make someone think, especially those who seized the opportunity to take advantage of.”
Gonzalo Boye, the lawyer of Puigdemont and Alay, asked the New York Times to show from which agency the report came, since it would not affect the sources in any possible way. “It would be very interesting for them to put this alleged report on the table.”
However, the NYT refused to show evidence, which confirms that this was a mere fabrication to discredit the independence movement. Clarifications about who was behind it, their real motivations, and whether they got special funding from any Spanish institution are needed for public interest and accountability.
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 leader of the Spanish Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, attended a mass in honour of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco in Granada on Saturday, November 20th. According to the Popular Party, Casado, was “unaware” that the mass in honour of the dictator was going to take place that day. However, this argument is dubious since photographs show that there were pre-constitutional flags and attendees making fascist salutes.
The controversy started earlier this week when several Spanish media outlets published photos of Casado with Mass-goers who attended the mass in memory of the dictator on the 46th anniversary of his death, an incident that has provoked denunciations by various left-wing political parties. “There were 10 masses in honour of Franco and there are 23,000 churches in Spain, so the chance of going to a mass for Franco being unaware was 0.005%.”
Foundation Francisco Franco
The Francisco Franco foundation thanked the PP President for attending the mass. “We are grateful that the opposition leader and his family attended the prayers for the soul of an exemplary Christian like Francisco Franco Bahamonde.” In addition, the foundation hopes that the presence of the PP leader at the event will serve to “normalize” its activities and demands.
Silence from Casado
Pablo Casado, on the other hand, has turned a deaf ear to criticism and has refused to give any explanation of his actions.
On Tuesday, the High Court of Madrid ordered the imprisonment of 10 of the 14 neo-Nazis who assaulted the Blanquerna Catalan cultural center in Madrid in 2013. They were told to collect their prison entry orders between November 25th and 29th, and after that, they will have ten more days to enter the prison of their choice. This decision comes after the Constitutional Court rejected the last possible appeal of the defendants for lack of “constitutional significance.”
The High Court also sent a letter to the Supreme Court to clarify the status of the pardon processes of two of the convicted, whose entries into prison had been temporarily suspended. In 2016, the 14 got prison sentences of up to six years. But in 2020, the Supreme Court reduced their sentences to between 2 years and 7 months and 2 years and 9 months in prison.
Two of the convicts had been subject to arrest warrants after disappearing, but one of them was captured and is already serving his sentence at the Victoria Kent prison.
The Catalan pro-independence movement believes their imprisonments come very late. It has been eight years since the events took place and five since their first conviction.
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.
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.