Spain’s former King Juan Carlos, who is currently under investigation for corruption and money laundering, pressured the Spanish government in order to get special favorable treatment, according to Spanish political figures.
In an interview for La Sexta network, the former Minister of Defense José Bono (PSOE) revealed how the former monarch pressured him to replace the then-head of the General Staff of the Army Luís Alejandre. When Bono refused, the monarch complained to the then Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero about the situation, despite the fact that the Spanish Constitution declares the monarchy and the executive branch must be separate and free of interference.
Juan Carlos also called Bono during his time as speaker of the Congress (2008-2011) to thank him after certain delicate parliamentary questions were rejected before they could be raised in the house.
Former Minister Margallo (PP) admitted pressures by the former king, but defended him for his “intense patriotism” and asked for the monarch to be judged for alleged corruption and money laundering “on balance,” considering that he was “key for the consolidation of democracy” in Spain.
On Tuesday, Amnesty International called once again for the immediate and unconditional release of jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez, thus bringing an end to the “injustice” they have been suffering for three years, during which they have been in prison.
The two pro-independence activists were jailed for their roles in the 2017 independence push, when they held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Ministry of the Economy. Both Sànchez and Cuixart were leaders of civic organizations, ANC and Òmnium, at the time of their jailing and were not members of any political party that carried out the 2017 independence referendum.
Amnesty considers their imprisonment “disproportionate” and that it “violates their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.” The organization presented a technical report in 2019 based on international law that points out the “vagueness” of the crime of sedition for which Cuixart and Sànchez were convicted and states that Spain’s state powers “have the opportunity to correct the effects of an unjust sentence against human rights.”
The writ was presented to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Constitutional Court, the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General for Constitutional and Human Rights.
After the publication of the report, Jordi Sànchez remarked that “freedom of expression protected him while demonstrating in front of the Ministry of the Economy on September 20, 2017” and that “his arrest, accusation, and conviction had no legal basis.” Meanwhile, Cuixart called on Spain’s PM, Pedro Sánchez, to “comply” with international law and act to free the prisoners.
The Spanish Civil Guard has named the new operation against the Catalan pro-independence movement “Volhov,” the name of a Russian river near the city of Novgorod, where the Spanish fascist Blue Division under Nazi command won a battle against the Soviet Union in 1941.
The unblocking of the river allowed the Nazi Army to consolidate positions and launch an offensive to the east, and so the Germans occupied the towns of Smeissko, Sitno, Tigoda and Petrovskoye.
Between 1941 and 1943, about 50,000 Spanish soldiers took part in several battles on the Eastern Front, all as part of the Siege of Leningrad. The Blue Division was a unit of volunteer Spaniards that fought in favor of Hitler during World War II, mainly on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Union’s Red Army. It participated in several battles, much acclaimed today by Franco’s supporters and the far-right ultras: Krasni Bor, the Battle of Possad and the Battle of Volhov.
The Catalan pro-independence activist Tamara Carrasco, accused by the prosecutors of sending a WhatsApp audio message inciting public disorder, has been acquitted by the criminal court number 25 of Barcelona. She faced a 7-month prison sentence as requested by the public prosecutor.
The court found that it has not been proven that Carrasco sent an audio message about possible actions of the Committee for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) to anyone other than her group of friends or that she disseminated it via WhatsApp. Nor has it been proven that she exercised coordination tasks within the CDR.
“It is absolutely impossible to determine when the incitement to commit public disorder occurs in a large demonstration or gathering, and it is clear that the message sent by the defendant does not give any such instruction,” said the judge.
Carrasco was detained in 2018, accused of terrorism and rebellion and was confined for over a year in her hometown of Viladecans (Barcelona) while waiting for her case to move forward.
“As I remember it, it was surreal: I woke up, opened the door, and saw 12 armed people accusing me of terrorism,” said Carrasco.
When she was first detained, the police used an alleged voice message sent to a WhatsApp group to accuse her of terrorism and of instructing orders to a local branch of the Committee of Defense for the Republic (CDR), a decentralized network of protest groups created on the eve of the 2017 independence referendum. However, she has now been acquitted of all allegations.
Catalan President Quim Torra will seek justice in Europe following his removal by the Spanish Supreme Court on Monday.
“Some judges, not the Catalan people, decided that I can no longer be president. No unjust law applied by the Supreme Court will ever be able to defeat democracy. And I assure you that the irregularities committed to overthrowing another president will be judged in Europe,” Torra said in a televised address.
While President Torra affirmed he didn’t accept the ruling, he made clear he will not disobey and called for a plebiscite on the mandate of the 2017 referendum on independence in the next elections, which are expected to take place on February 14th.
Torra was disqualified by the Spanish Supreme Court on Monday for not removing a banner in defense of jailed and exiled pro-independence leaders from the government headquarters’ façade during an election period in 2019.
The President admitted in court that he had “disobeyed” Spain’s electoral authority by failing to remove the symbols, but added that “complying with an illegal order was impossible.” He denied that the expression ‘political prisoners’ that featured on the banner was partisan, arguing that “it is a way of speaking permitted by freedom of speech.”
“We don’t have the independent Catalan republic we were committed to building together. That’s how far I’ve come, and believe me when I say that I was ready to face any consequences,” said Torra.
The Spanish government will be able to send messages by WhatsApp, Telegram and other applications to the population in exceptional situations, according to the preliminary draft of the Telecommunications Act.
“This exceptional and transitional power of direct management or intervention may affect any infrastructure, associated resource or element or level of the network or service that is necessary to preserve or restore public order, public safety or national security,” states the text of the preliminary draft, as reported by the digital newspaper Vozpopuli.
According to the draft, “this power will only be exercised with respect to providers of interpersonal communications services when they are assigned the obligation to transmit public alerts in the event of major catastrophes or imminent or ongoing emergencies.”
The draft proposes a specific intervention by law in communication services such as Whatsapp and Telegram, which operate from outside Spain and pose more problems. For this reason, the Government wants to be able to order them to broadcast messages and alerts that they consider appropriate during an exceptional situation.
What is an exceptional situation? Many people fear the government will use this power to quell legitimate protests or acts of civil disobedience in the future. Whether this law will be used against dissenting and peaceful protesters is still unknown, but the experience in other countries shows that this type of law is likely to be used against the population in the foreseeable future.
The former Minister of Justice of PSOE in the last legislature and new Spain’s Attorney General, Dolores Delgado, affirmed on Monday during the opening ceremony of the judicial year, presided over by King Felipe VI, that the trial of the pro-independence leaders was “a criminal trial of special significance at all levels” where the various legal operators involved “have set an example of institutional normalcy and commitment to duty and legality.”
According to Delgado, the Public Prosecutor’s Office is an institution “close” to the citizens and “a decisive pillar in the defense of legality and democracy and the rule of law. The vocation for public service has been what encouraged the work of prosecutors during 2019,” she said (despite being a politicized institution that has proven to be one of the arms of the repression against the Catalans).
Delgado said that the trial of the pro-independence leaders was held with the additional “guarantee” of “enhanced advertising” because it was broadcast “streaming” through television and radio.
She recalled that the sentence stated that “the facts of the case constituted a crime of sedition and an aggravated crime of embezzlement of public money” and concluded that they had been undertaken “in medial competition” so that the embezzlement could be considered the means “to commit sedition.”
“This culminated a criminal process of special importance at all levels, where the various legal operators involved have set an example of institutional normalcy and commitment to duty and legality,” she concluded.
No reference was made to the flight of King Emeritus Juan Carlos to a country without an extradition treaty with Switzerland or to investigations into his alleged irregular businesses.
The judge of the 5th Court of Prisons has decided to maintain once again the suspension of the open prison regime for Oriol Junqueras, Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Turull, Raül Romeva and Josep Rull until the Supreme Court resolves the appeals filed by the prosecution against the classification of the political prisoners. The judge has again rejected the appeals filed by the defense.
In a statement, the judge said that the arguments of the defense are the same as those already used in the appeal filed against the first ruling on July 28, in which he suspended the execution of the open regime. That appeal was answered in the ruling of August 11. On August 19, the same court upheld the open prison regime but insisted that the suspension should be maintained pending the Supreme Court ruling.
This decision comes after Spanish prosecutors requested the suspension of the lowest security prison regime for seven of the 9 political prisoners: Oriol Junqueras, Joaquim Forn, Jordi Cuixart, Jordi Sànchez, Raül Romeva, Josep Rull, and Jordi Turull.
Another judge decided to maintain the open prison regime for jailed Catalan leaders Carme Forcadell and Dolors Bassa until the Supreme Court makes a final decision on the prosecutor’s requests.
A final decision on the Catalan political prisoners’ jail regime will still have to be made by the Supreme Court for the nine political prisoners in the next few months.
Catalan President Quim Torra announced during an interview with the Catalan News Agency (ACN) his intention of seeking negotiations with the EU if Spain continues denying the Catalans their right-to self-determination. It comes after “finding” that conversations with Madrid so far has only translated into “photos.”
“It is enough to deceive us. But are they willing to negotiate self-determination? If not, we will negotiate in Brussels and we will not waste any more time.”
The President affirms that his administration will only meet with the PSOE and Podemos government if they write on a paper the conditions for a referendum and amnesty for the political prisoners. “If we don’t see it on a paper, we will not go to the negotiating table again, and we will go to Europe instead” he warned. In this line, the head of government urges Madrid to answer whether or not it is “willing” to negotiate self-determination.
“Have we come to the conclusion that it is impossible for a pro-independence activist to be judged with state neutrality? And have we concluded that they are about to disqualify a president for displaying a banner calling for freedom of expression? The same will happen with the dialogue then, and we will only find negotiation outside the [Spanish] state,” he asserted.
Torra asks pro-independence forces to achieve a programmatic agreement on self-determination. “What I expect from the parties is a clarification in their electoral programs on how we can move forward towards the Catalan republic,” he explained. According to the President, it is necessary to “clarify” the commitment to “exercise the right to self-determination again.”
The President also asked the Catalan unionism to make its own self-criticism with proposals on how to deal with the current situation: “How do they plan to address the fact that the state cares very little or nothing about the funds that correspond to Catalonia?” he asked.
Spain’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Catalan president Quim Torra’s disqualification on September 17. If the judges confirm the disqualification ruled by the Spanish high court in Catalonia (TSJC), Torra would be ousted from his position.
The President affirmed last year that he would call for elections before being disqualified, which could happen in the next few weeks. It remains unknown whether he has changed his mind due to the Covid-19 health crisis.
On Monday, Spain’s interior minister, Marlaska, confirmed that the Spanish government was still providing protection for former King Juan Carlos I, who fled the country last week over allegations of corruption and money laundering. He is believed to have settled in a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi. The cost per night is over €10,000.
Marlaska: “It is reasonable and timely that the Minister of the Interior does not give any information about it [where the King is], but what no one can forget is that we are talking about the person who was the head of State in Spain. His security obviously concerns the Spanish state.”
PM Pedro Sánchez affirmed that he didn’t know the whereabouts of the monarch, but the minister of the interior’s statements suggests his administration is closely monitoring the former king’s steps.
Last week, the state-owned public broadcaster RTVE revealed that the government had been negotiating the self-imposed exile of the monarch with the Royal House over a period of weeks, meaning it had helped the monarch to flee the country.
Juan Carlos is under investigation in Spain for his role in a deal in which a Spanish consortium landed a €6.7 billion contract to build a high-speed rail line between the Saudi cities of Medina and Mecca.
Swiss prosecutors are also investigating a $100 million bank account held by the monarch in the country. According to the investigations, Juan Carlos allegedly received a “donation” of $100 million from the king of Saudi Arabia that he put in an offshore account in 2008. A few years later, he allegedly “gifted” 65 of those millions from that account to his ex-lover Corinna Larsen.
It is still too early to know whether Swiss and Spanish justice will convict the former king, Juan Carlos I, of corruption and money laundering. However, this case has already shown that the Spanish government has helped someone under investigation over corruption and money laundering to flee the country and is still providing him protection. There is, then, little doubt the Spanish administration is trying to shore up the 78 regime.