Trial of Catalan Police Leadership During the 2017 Independence Referendum Week 1, January 20, 21, 22 and 23

The trial of the Catalan police leadership during the 2017 independence referendum begun on Monday in Spain’s National Court. Former Catalan police (Mossos) chief Trapero, the former police director Pere Soler and the former secretary-general of the Catalan interior ministry César Puig are charged with rebellion, whilst former Catalan police superintendent Teresa Laplana is charged with sedition.

Former Catalan police chief Josep Lluís Trapero

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Trapero defended his actions during the 2017 independence bid, as well as the actions of other members of the former Catalan police leadership. He denied any cooperation with the independence bid, or any “close relationship” with the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont.

Trapero affirmed that the Mossos (Catalan police) didn’t facilitate the referendum and instead applied criteria of proportionality in the actions to not cause greater damage. The former police chief assured that it was “impossible to stop 2.3 million” people who were holding the referendum. “There were not sufficient officers.”

Trapero also said that he offered himself to arrest Catalan president Puigdemont if it was necessary.

Intendant Teresa Laplana

On Wednesday, Teresa Lapana assured that she was “not responsible” for the police operation at the Economy Ministry on September 20, 2017. She affirmed that her task that day was to “transmit Spain’s Civil Guard’s requests to her superiors.”

Laplana: “When I arrived [at the Economy Ministry] there were already a lot of people: around 700 and the number was increasing. There were all kinds of people of all ages, including families, and the attitude was peaceful.”

Laplana also said that she only talked to the former leader of the Catalan civil society organization ANC, Jordi Sànchez, because former police chief Trapero asked her to speak with him about the “detainees’ entry and departure” and also to help the judicial commission leave the building later that same day.

Former director of the Catalan police Pere Soler

On Thursday, Pere Soler explained that all human, material and budgetary resources were used to comply with court orders regarding the referendum. “The number of officers was increased by 800. The whole body of Mossos was mobilized like never before. We made a huge sacrifice.” The former director of the Mossos emphasized that “it was a joint operation” with other Spanish police forces.

Soler dismissed follow-up of Spanish officers as “false.” He said he knew that chief Trapero was against the referendum. “He told me that there could be a public order incident and that he wanted to report it to Minister Joaquim Forn.”

Soler also assured that the former Interior Minister Forn never gave him “instructions for the Mossos to support the referendum.”

Former Secretary-General of Interior Cèsar Puig

On Thursday, Cèsar Puig affirmed that he had no jurisdiction related to the independence referendum. “I had nothing to contribute to strategic or operational issues in relation to the referendum. I was responsible solely for managing resources to comply with court orders.”

Cèsar Puig was named Secretary-General of Interior in 2015 and was dismissed in 2017 in accordance with Article 155 (Spain’s direct rule) in Catalonia. “My role with the referendum was zero. The Government wanted to hold an agreed referendum, but I had no competence in this regard,” emphasized the former Secretary-General.

On the referendum, Puig reiterated that there was a “joint” operation with the Civil Guard and the National Police. He also admitted that he knew that former police chief Trapero and the Mossos were against the referendum.

Jailed Catalan Leader Oriol Junqueras Prepares an Appeal to the General Court of the European Union (EGC)

The defense of jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras is preparing an appeal in the General Court of the European Union (EGC) against the decision of the European Parliament to exclude him as Member of the European Parliament (MEP). Precautionary measures will be required for the EGC to suspend the decision of David Sassoli, President of the Euro-Chamber, and the court will have to determine whether to accept it within a few hours after the appeal is presented.

The General Court of the European Union (EGC) is a constituent Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). It hears cases against institutions of the European Union by individuals and member states.

According to article 263 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), any citizen can file an appeal against the acts of European institutions that directly affect him/her. The procedure for this appeal may take several months, but the precautionary measures will be pronounced immediately, a few hours after the petition has been registered. The EGC could accept or reject them. If they are accepted, the European Parliament will be obliged to recognize Junqueras as an MEP again.

The parallel route to the ECJ

In parallel with the appeal to the EGC, Junqueras’ defense will file an appeal against the Spanish Supreme Court’s decision to keep him in prison. If this move fails, Junqueras’ defense will appeal to the Spanish Constitutional Court for violation of his political and constitutional rights. The next and final step would be to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The EU ParliamentDecision to Recognize Jailed and Exiled Catalan Leaders, Junqueras, Puigdemont and Comín, Causes Political Turmoil

On Monday, the news that the exiled and jailed Catalan leaders Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín and Oriol Junqueras will be allowed to take up their seats as Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) caused immediate political turmoil in Spain. The European Parliament officially announced that it will recognize the Catalan leaders as MEPs through a communique during the morning. This decision came after the European Court of Justice ruled on December 19 that the Catalans leaders have immunity.

While Catalan authorities celebrated the EU Parliament decision, the Spanish far-right and the right-wing, which had been attempting to prevent them from becoming MEPs, accused the EU Parliament of violating Spanish sovereignty and suggested that there had been an under the table agreement between the EU authorities and pro-independence forces, though no evidence was presented.

Regarding Spain’s Electoral Authority’s decision on barring Catalan President Torra from office and to veto Junqueras from becoming MEP despite the European Court of Justice immunity ruling, Torra said he was “proud that both the Catalan Parliament and the EU Parliament had disregarded Spain’s electoral Authority.”

Puigdemont’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, first tweeted a prompt “mission accomplished.” Later he demanded also the annulment of the trial over the 2017 independence referendum because “the trial shouldn’t have taken place due to Junqueras’ immunity.”

Junqueras’ lawyer, Andreu Van den Eynde, called for his client’s release: “Junqueras is an MEP. He has parliamentary immunity. He must be released to be able to go to the European Parliament.”

Spanish far-right and right-wing reaction

The three main unionist parties, Ciutadans (C’s), People’s Party (PP) and the far-right Vox asked the EU Parliament to revoke its decision recognizing the Catalan leaders as MEPs.

The spokesperson of the PP in the EU Parliament, Dolors Montserrat, accused the EU Parliament President, Sassoli, of an under the table agreement with those seeking Catalan independence. In a letter, Montserrat also recalled that the Spain’s Electoral Authority (JEC) ruled that Junqueras cannot be an MEP because he has been convicted by the Supreme Court. She also defended that the JEC is a “legitimate and competent” body in Spain.

The head of Cs’ delegation to the European Parliament, Luís Garicano, called on the chamber’s president, David Sassoli, to “revoke” and “reconsider” as well as to take into account the Spanish electoral authority veto. Garicano also announced that his party had already appealed the decision.

The head of the People’s Party in Spain, Pablo Casado, criticized the Socialist government’s “inaction” on the matter and called on Sassoli to “revoke his decision on Junqueras, who has been sentenced and barred from office for sedition and misuse of funds.” He also added that his party would “always defend Spanish institutions and respect for the law.”

The leader of the far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal, accused Brussels of “trampling over Spanish sovereignty” and said that “the enemies of Spain in Europe want to take advantage of us having a treacherous prime minister to weaken our nation further.”

Catalan Leaders: How Does the Mechanism to Withdraw MEPs’ Immunity Work?

The ruling of the EU Court of Justice on Junqueras’ immunity last week caused a political earthquake in Spain. The ruling, which is binding, stated that all candidates become members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and have immunity at the very same moment the results of the European elections are published by national authorities of each state member. This decision means Junqueras should be released immediately and his judgment on the 2017 independence referendum annulled and that exiled Catalan leaders Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comín can no longer be extradited nor detained in the euro-zone.

There is however a mechanism that the Spanish Supreme Court could activate if it still wants to prosecute the Catalan leaders, the supplicatory which is based in asking the European Parliament to withdraw the Catalan leaders’ immunity. This procedure, which lasts for several months, would internationalize the Catalan cause to levels never before seen. It would be like a trial on the Spanish Supreme Court, which would provide relevant evidence, clarification and information on the situation of Catalan exiles, as well as the Catalan conflict.

Supplicatory Mechanism

According to Article 9 of the EU Parliament regulations, the competent authority of a Member State, that is, the Supreme Court, can request the President of the European Parliament a petition to suspend a MEP’s immunity. If accepted it is transferred to the legal affairs committee of the Parliament.

There are no deadlines to resolve these sorts of cases, though EU regulation specifies it should be done “as soon as possible.” The legal affairs committee has to issue a recommendation after analyzing the specific case that will eventually be voted on by the plenary.

During this process, the EU Parliament could ask the Spanish Supreme Court “for all information and clarifications it deems necessary to form a criteria” as to whether or not immunity is needed. The MEPs affected, in this case, Junqueras, Comín and Puigdemont, could also take part in the commission to provide further information and defend themselves. The rest of the sessions would be behind closed doors.

Once the committee elevates a proposal to the plenary, it would be debated and voted on during the next EU Parliament plenary session. No amendments could be tabled, but the plenary would have to discuss publicly the reasons for and against the decision rendered on the petition. The Catalan cause and the judgment on the 2017 independence referendum would have extraordinary international visibility.

If the Plenary finally agrees on withdrawing the immunity of the Catalan leaders, the President of the Chamber would notify the Spanish Supreme Court. This, however, doesn’t mean that they would lose their credentials as MEPs, but that the EU chamber allows three of its members to be tried in a country that claims jurisdiction over them. The Spanish Supreme Court would then need to get their extradition; otherwise, the whole procedure to revoke the Catalan leaders’ immunity would have been useless. 

The New Governing Body of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) Becomes More Conservative

The new governing body of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) has become more conservative. This happened when the Conservative Professional Association of the Magistracy (APM) won the November 26th elections to the High Court by obtaining six of the seven positions at stake.

The conservative association achieved the control of the Government Chamber with a total of 524 votes cast, the APM celebrated it with a message which emphasized that its “commitment is firm in the defense of the professional interests of peers and the rule of law.”

The new magistrates that enter the plenary of the TSJC and took office on Tuesday are Maria Eugènia Alegret Burgués, Patricia Brotons Carrasco, Juan Francisco Garnica Martín, Elena Campos Martín, Patricia Batlle Ferrando, Joaquín Elias Gadea Francés and Montserrat Comas de Argemir Cendra. Their mandate will last for 5 years.

The new composition makes the TSJC more conservative. Only one progressive magistrate, Montserrat Comas, of Judges for Democracy was elected. The rest of the magistrates are part of the APM.

The body is formed of 15 members: the president of the TSJC, the presidents of the social section and the contentious administrative section of the TSJC, the presidents of the four provincial gatherings and the jury dean of Barcelona. The other 7 members are elected, directly by judges and magistrates, and renewed every 5 years.

In this regard, the President of the TSJC, Jesús Maria Barrientos, admitted that “the system of assignment of positions can suggest the need for some correction that provides for a better reflection of the plurality of the race,” referring to the members that are not voted, but designated by law.

In a speech almost entirely in Spanish, Barrientos criticized the pro-independence movement for what he considers “a criminal” process executed by leaders seeking independence. Barrientos also thanked all the judges and magistrates in Catalonia for their commitment to being responsible for the management of an adverse environment at various levels, and also at the constitutional level overcoming difficulties with great generosity and a high institutional sense of worth.” 

The Spanish National Police Followed and Spied on Catalan President Torra During Election Day on November 10

Catalan President Quim Torra was followed by Spanish police officers during the election day on November 10. In an exclusive interview at eldiario.es earlier this week, it is explained how presidential security members found that several vehicles followed the President during the election day.

The officers of the Mossos (Catalan police) detected that a Citroën C4 with three men followed the President when he was on his way to vote. When they approached the car, the three men claimed to be officers of the Spanish National Police, showed their identifying badges and said: “We are here for the same thing.” This was confirmed by sources of Mossos (Catalan police) at eldiario.es.

Upon returning from voting, the president’s escorts took an unusual itinerary because Torra had a personal visit to make; when suddenly, a Peugeot 308 which had ignored a traffic light was detected and stopped. The occupants identified themselves as Spanish police officers. When the presidential escorts asked them if they were following the president, they responded: “Oh, no. We, aren’t!” The escorts estimate that this Peugeot 308 followed them for 10 minutes over a stretch of 1.7 kilometers. The rest of the day no other suspect vehicles were detected.

The presidential security team reported these incidents through the channels of internal communication to the Barcelona-based Security Coordination Center (CECOR), the Coordination Center integrated by Mossos, the National Police and the Civil Guard.

The Interior Ministry Version

Sources from the Ministry of Interior deny any trailing of Torra. “No national police followed Torra, either that day or any other.”

The detection of police officers watching Torra has surprised his security team as it does not appear that the President has opened any other investigation against him, beyond the two already known for disobedience, which does not require surveillance or any other type of proceedings from the judicial police.

The Spanish Chamber’s Permanent Deputation Approves a Controversial Digital Decree

On Wednesday, the Spanish chamber’s Permanent Deputation approved the controversial digital decree, which grants the Spanish government the possibility of “shutting down” the Internet and intervening on servers and social media platforms without a court order in the case of exceptional circumstances: “public order, public safety and national security.” The decree was approved with the favorable votes of the Spanish “Socialist” party (PSOE), Popular Party (PP), Ciudadanos (C’s) and the abstention of Unidas Podemos (UP).

Spanish acting PM Pedro Sánchez promoted the decree as a response to coordinated actions by the civil disobedience platform Tsunami Democràtic in the aftermath of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of the Catalan leaders jailed over the 2017 independence referendum. The decree; however, will also affect the rest of the Spanish state.

ERC and JxCat accused PSOE of promoting a “totalitarian” measure such as those implemented in countries like China, Saudi Arabia or Turkey.

MP Montse Bassa (ERC) warned that her group will bring this measure to European Courts and criticized “the repressive strategy of the PSOE.” Bassa also accused the Spanish State of chasing “political dissidence” and freedom of expression with an “arbitrary system that allows censorship and coercion of rights and freedoms.”

MP Laura Borràs (JxCat) denounced that the decree is a “digital coup” and accused the State of being “technophobic […] the Spanish State will have nothing to envy authoritarian states in the matter of the Internet.” Borràs also warned that the Catalan government would take the decree-law to the Spanish Constitutional Court due to the fact that the initiative “is a serious misuse of power.”

The pro-independence party CUP also denounced the approval of the decree. The anticapitalists criticized Unidas Podemos and Catalunya en Comú Podem for negotiating the coalition government with PSOE without any democratic conditions, such as abolishing the Mordassa law or modifying the digital decree. “It is nothing more than a continuation of the repressive actions of the Spanish state against dissidence.”

The approval and enforcement of the digital decree comes at a moment when Pedro Sánchez is negotiating his investiture with the pro-independence parties ERC and JxCat.