The Spanish Judiciary Irregularities and the Protection of Freedoms and Rights

The President of the Spanish General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), Carlos Lesmes, has initiated a marathon of appointments of high judicial positions despite the fact that the council is pending renewal. He has already made the appointment of 13 of the aforementioned positions and plans to do about 25 more before August. The vacancies to renew include the presidency of the National Court and four seats of the Supreme Court.

Elisa Beni denounces in eldiario.es that this situation is unusual and “looks so bad that not only forces to question whether a CGPJ with pending renewal mandate can take these decisions that will tie his successors for five years in a body that will have a majority of progressive sensitivity, but also the anomalous way it is being done.”

She also regrets that “something so serious goes virtually unnoticed by the public as well as some politicians who do not see the seriousness of what is happening.”

The current Spanish judiciary is also currently deliberating on the sentences for the jailed Catalan leaders, who are expected to receive harsh punishments: sentences by up to 30 years in prison, for no apparent reason other than holding a depenalized democratic vote: a self-determination referendum.

Given the aforementioned anti-democratic moves, it’s not surprising that most Catalans support independence. The conclusion is clear: the Spanish authoritarian state is unreformable. Thus, the creation of a new state is a good opportunity for the Catalans to build a most prosperous and fair country where no one is above anyone else and all fundamental rights are respected.

The Independence Trial verdict, expected to be announced between July and October, will be another test of the strength of Spanish “democracy.” Because of several unfair verdicts in the past, the current Spanish Judiciary hasn’t given any reason for optimism – rather the contrary. So, pro-independence forces have the responsibility to find strategic unity leaving aside any kind of partisan division. It will be necessary to articulate a strong, peaceful and democratic response to the verdict in order to defend and protect the freedoms and rights achieved in the past by our parents, grandparents and ancestors.

It is important to remark that this democratic “battle” is not only about independence, but the protection of fundamental rights. These could be curtailed or even entirely eliminated by the Spanish State for many generations to come.

Authoritarianism VS Democracy

It’s still uncertain who will win this struggle, but it’s sure that everyone must choose one option to stand for and that the outcome will mark us as a society for many years to come.

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Summary Last Week of Independence Trial: June 11 and 12

June 11, Day 51 of Trial

CLOSING ARGUMENTS OF THE DEFENSE

– Andreu Van den Eynde, representing the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras and foreign minister Raül Romeva:

I still don’t know when this uprising is taking place. The people did not go out to topple the state, they went to vote and protest. The defendants refused violence, no message where they promote it has been found. However, they have found many messages where the accused defend peace. It’s about knowing if a politician has the right to speak about self-determination. Freedom of expression also protects the opinions that hurt.”

Andreu Van den Eynde also referred to the trial verdict, which is expected to be announced sometime between July and October, as an “opportunity to resolve the conflict by returning the conflict to politics.”

Xavier Melero, representing the former interior minister Joaquim Forn:

The Catalan government breached its own declaration of independence and instead made provisions for the application of Article 155 [the suspension of self-rule in Catalonia]. I am aware that this may annoy some people.”

Lawyer Pina, representing the former ministers Jordi Turull, Josep Rull and Jordi Sànchez

“The passive resistance shown by citizens is incompatible with the concept of a public uprising.”

– Josep Riba, representing the former justice minister Carles Mundó, refuted the charge of misuse of public funds:

“There is no evidence that the Catalan government spent anything on the referendum logistics or ballot boxes.”

 

June 12, Day 52 of Trial

CLOSING ARGUMENTS OF THE DEFENSE 

Marina Roig, representing the President of the grassroots organization Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Cuixart:

“There is no democracy without democracy, and there is no democracy without citizen participation.” 

She also said that “criminalizing public protest can have dangerous consequences for fundamental rights in Spain.”

Olga Arderiu, representing the former speaker Carme Forcadell:

“The prosecutors emphasized in their final reports her role as pro-independence civic organization Catalan National Assembly (ANC)‘s president until 2015 – even though the events she is supposed to be tried for happened in 2017.”

She also complained that her client is facing a 17-year prison sentence for rebellion when the other former Catalan parliament bureau members are being prosecuted for disobedience, which does not carry prison time.

– Former Governance, Public Administration, and Housing Minister Meritxell Borràs’ lawyer rejected the allegations of misuse of public funds and complained of what she described as the prosecutors’ “bias.”

Mariano Bergés, representing the former work, social affairs, and families minister Dolors Bassa: 

“They intended to achieve independence by voting and through dialogue. What happened in September 2017 was not violence. The pro-independence demonstrations were always peaceful. ” 

DEFENDANTS’ FINAL STATEMENTS

Former Catalan Vice-President Oriol Junqueras

“It’s time for the Catalan question to return to the political sphere of dialogue and negotiation, which it should never have left.”

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Raül Romeva

“Today it is us, tomorrow it could be anyone.”

Former Interior Minister Joaquim Forn

“The Catalan question can only ever be resolved through dialogue.”

Former President’s Office Minister Jordi Turull

“Decapitating us will not decapitate the independence movement or the desire for independence and self-determination in Catalonia.”

Former Territory and Sustainability Minister Josep Rull

“Self-determination is simple and transcendental. There will always be more people following us. There are not enough prisons to lock up our desire for freedom.”

Former Leader of the Pro-Independence Organization ANC Jordi Sànchez

“This is an enormous injustice, not only for me and for the other pro-independence prisoners but in general around Spain.”

Former Catalan Parliament Speaker Carme Forcadell

“I’m being judged for who I am, not the facts.”

Former Work, Social Affairs, and Families Minister Dolors Bassa

“Many generations to come will depend on this verdict, which has the potential to provide a solution.”

President of Pro-independence Grassroots Organization Òmnium Cultural Jordi Cuixart

“If police violence could not stop thousands of people from voting in the referendum, does anyone believe that a sentence will cause Catalans to stop fighting for their rights? I would do the same of what I am accused of again. We will do it again!”

Former Business Minister Santi Vila

“The government had been negotiating a possible legal alternative to independence declaration until the last minute.”

Former Governance, Public Administration, and Housing Minister Meritxell Borràs

“New politicians will come and the longing of a sizeable proportion of the Catalan people to decide how we want to fit into a modern Europe will continue.”

Former Justice Minister Carles Mundó

“Taking political issues to the courts does no favors to politics and nor does it help the judiciary”

Additional Information

– The verdict is expected to be announced sometime between the end of July and October.

– A harsh sentence would be seen as a dissuasive punishment for the leaders, and the whole independence camp, which would likely provoke indignation across Catalonia, which could lead to an indefinite general strike or even to a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI).

Summary Penultimate Week of Independence Trial: June 4

On Tuesday, the concluding statements from the prosecuting lawyers (at the Supreme Court trial of 12 Catalan political leaders) were heard:

– Spain’s Public Prosecutor affirmed that the 2017 Catalan independence referendum was “a coup d’état.”

– Attorney Javier Zaragoza affirmed that the roadmap to independence, including a referendum and a declaration of independence in 2017, was a violent insurrection, uprising, involving coercion.

It was a serious attack on the foundations of the constitution with illegal, coercive methods, using violence when needed,” he said.

Zaragoza also said that the 9 jailed Catalan leaders were not political prisoners.

There are no political prisoners, they are not political prisoners,” he insisted. He also rejected the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s report urging the “immediate” release of the leaders, accusing the institution of ignoring Spain’s arguments.

– Spanish prosecutor Moreno: “There was violence, it was necessary for their cause, they knew the vote would provoke confrontations, and yet they still called people to vote knowing what would happen.”

– Public Prosecutor Fidel Cadena said that the jailed Catalan leaders should be charged with rebellion because “they violated the constitution and the foundations of the Spanish state.”

– Rosa María Seoane, the Solicitor General, affirmed that the “trial against the Catalan leaders is completely transparent” and denied that their right to defense was undermined during the process.

– The popular prosecutor of the far-right Vox party, accused the political prisoners of perpetrating “the most sophisticated and original coup d’état against a democracy ever seen in a modern society.”

– Javier Ortega Smith, one of the lawyers for far-right Vox, affirmed that the accused were part of a “criminal organization.”

Vox lawyers concluded by saying that they wanted tough sentences “so that no one dares to attack the constitutional order again.”

Additional Information

The trial will resume on Tuesday, June 11, at 9.30am with the closing arguments from the defense lawyers. The lawyers will only have one hour to defend each of the accused.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calls for the immediate release of the jailed Catalan leaders Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart, and Oriol Junqueras.

– “Prosecutors are trying to define a new concept of violence” says defense lawyer.

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary May 27, 28, and 29

May 27, Day 47 of Trial

– The documentary evidence phase started on Monday, showing documents and presenting hundreds of videos from both the defense and the accusation related to what happened during Autumn of 2017.

– Videos were not shown during the witness stage of the trial, and in this documentary phase no commentary on the footage was allowed.

– The evidence shown on Monday included police reports on activities allegedly related to the misuse of public funds and the seizure of material for the referendum.

– The accusation presented videos showing “violence” perpetrated by the voters against the Spanish police.

– The defense presented videos showing the “violence” perpetrated by the Spanish police during the October 1 referendum.

May 28, Day 48 of Trial

– On Tuesday, videos presented by the prosecution team aimed to establish that violence was used in the 2017 independence bid were shown.

– Footage shown in court featured protesters and voters peacefully trying to prevent the Spanish police from entering polling stations during the 2017 independence referendum.

– In many cases the state prosecutor was unable to say where or when the footage had been recorded.

– The prosecutor was often unable to tell the defense lawyers where exactly the video had been recorded, saying that the intention had been to show the “general climate everywhere.”

May 29, Day 49 of Trial

– The defense teams presented their video evidence in court.

– The videos shown in court featured some of the jailed leaders calling for the people to keep a peaceful attitude during the referendum.

– One of the videos featured the jailed Catalan leader Jordi Cuixart openly rejecting “violence and non-democratic behavior.”

– Videos with images of police violence against peaceful voters and protesters at numerous locations across Catalonia were shown.

– The lawyers for the defense were able to identify when and where each of the videos had been filmed.

Additional Information

– The defense will present their summaries on June 10 before the defendants also share their closing remarks.

– The public prosecutor confirmed the charges of rebellion against most of the defendants on trial and requests prison sentences of up to 25 years for organizing a referendum and declaring independence in late 2017.

– The prosecutor requested 17 years in jail for the former parliament speaker Carme Forcadell and for the Catalan leaders Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez.

– The prosecutor requested 16 years in jail for the former Catalan ministers Jordi Turull, Josep Rull, Dolors Bassa, Raül Romeva, and Joaquim Forn.

– The solicitor general’s office requested 7 and 12 years in prison for sedition.

– The private prosecutor representing the far-right party Vox requested 74 years in prison for the former ministers and 62 years for Sànchez and Cuixart.

– Vox reduced its demands regarding Santi Vila, reducing the charges to disobedience, which carries no prison sentence.

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary Most Important Testimonies May 22 and 23

May 22, Day 45 of Trial 

Wednesday’s session started with the testimonies of Catalan government officials and ended with the beginning of the “expert phase.”

Jordi Martínez Soler, a social media advisor for the Parliament, explained that he managed Forcadell’s social media accounts in Autumn 2017 and explained the content of the tweets he tweeted during that time.

Ricard Gené, who was part of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC)’s secretariat at the same time as Carme Forcadell, explained that the role of Forcadell, currently accused of rebellion, was as a ”representative and not an executive.”

Forcadell was not involved in elaborating the ANC’s roadmap,” he said.

– Rosa Maria Sans, who is the head of management of the use of government facilities and equipment by non-profit organizations at the Catalan Department of Labour, Social Affairs and Families, explained how was his work during the 2017 Autumn.

– The expert phase started with the Supreme Court judges overlooking some of the complaints from the defense, who called on the court to dismiss some experts on the grounds that they had not seen their reports before the session, which violated the right of their clients to have a proper defense.

– An expert affirmed that publicity material commissioned for the 2017 referendum was actually produced, whether or not it was later paid for by public money.

If the administration does not pay for something commissioned, an “irregularity” and ‘unjust enrichment are committed’, added the Spanish tax official

NOTE: The tax expert witnesses were all called by the accusation and one of them used to work as an advisor for the former Spanish right-wing government.

John Paul Lederach and Jesus Castañar, experts on mass non-violent movements, gave evidence about the character of the 20 September 2017 protests in front of government ministries following numerous illegitimate raids by the Spanish police. They both affirmed that the protests were an “act of persuasion” and not an act of civil disobedience. They said there was no violence committed against police officers and no attempts to seize public buildings.

May 23, Day 46 of Trial

The day started with the testimonies of experts called by both the prosecution and the defense.

Josefina Valls and Xavier Urios, director of services and chief lawyer at the Catalan governance ministry, said that the ministry didn’t spend money for the referendum.

Pau Villòria, head of the Department of Enterprise during the 2017 referendum, explained that his department did not spend money for the referendum nor did they allow any of their venues to be used for that purpose.

Experts called in by the lawyers of the former Catalan Labour Minister Dolors Bassa said that they could not establish a rental cost for public venues that were used during the referendum since these were not bound by rental contracts.

– Doctors said none of the 60 cases they examined related to Spanish police officers were “serious” injuries. In 32 cases, no treatment was recommended. A further 11 cases were finger sprains. Others involved bruising.

Additional Information

The Spanish Supreme court communicated the defense that the trial of the 12 Catalan pro-independence leaders is set to come to a close on 11 June.

The defense will take the stand for their closing arguments on 10 June, before the defendants make their closing remarks on 11 JuneThe Supreme Court ruled that each of the 12 accused parties will be given 15 minutes to address the court directly before the proceedings are over until the sentencing.

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary Most Important Testimonies May 13 and 14

May 13, Day 43 of Trial

The day started with testimonies from citizens who voted in the 2017 independence referendum followed by a declaration from Mireia Boya, a former MP of CUP party.

– Mireia Boya explained that she participated in the demonstration in front of the Catalan Finance Ministry on September 20, 2017, to protest against the detention of Catalan government officials. “The atmosphere was festive. It was easy to get to the door,” she said.

Boya also explained that she went to “defend” the CUP headquarters the same day when she heard that the Spanish National Police was trying to enter the building without a court order.

– Francesc Esteve, the head of the Catalan government’s legal department, told the court that he was not aware of any irregular payments made by the Catalan government for the referendum.

– Mercè Corretja, head of the Catalan government’s public procurement, said that she searched the public contracts registry several times and she hadn’t found anything related to the referendum. She also said that the Catalan government accounts had been blocked by Spain 15 days prior to the vote.

– Nuria Cuenca, the head of the education department in the Catalan government, told the court that the Spanish police caused damage at schools of €268,000 the day of the referendum.

May 14, Day 44 of Trial

The day was marked by a clash between Judge Marchena and Jordi Cuixart‘s defense counsel, Benet Salellas.

Judge Marchena repeatedly interrupted the witness Marina Garcés whenever she expressed her feelings over the referendum day. “We can’t waste time,” he said.

Judge Marchena: “Your personal opinions are of no interest, even though you would love to keep talking about them.”

Lawyer Benet Salellas protested Marchena’s assessment, noting that the court had been receptive to “the perceptions of witnesses of the referendum when they were police officers.” However,  Marchena suggested he would be glad if Salellas remained quiet during the cross-examination of academic Marina GarcésSalellas then protested and denounced a “continued violation of fundamental rights” and said he would not be asking further questions as a result of the decision. “Much better,” Marchena responded.

Ramon Font, the head of an education trade union, spoke about the initiative to keep schools open with activities during the independence referendum weekend.

Font said that many organizations joined the initiative: “We couldn’t conceive that schools, for us temples of culture and democracy, would remain closed for any state decision.”

Jordi Pesarrodona, a voter of the referendum, said that the Spanish police hit his testicles with batons several times the day of the referendum.

Maria Lluisa Carrillo, a voter of the referendum, said she was thrown to the ground by the Spanish police, who then, broke her pelvis.

Mercé Arderiu, a lawyer at the Catalan parliament, said the order of the day was changed on a 6 and 7 September 2017 plenary session at the request of MPs. She explained speaker Forcadell had no power to prevent this from happening.

Lluis Corominas, a former member of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau, on the former speaker Forcadell: “All formal necessities were always examined. The president cannot do anything alone.”

Anna Simó, a former member of the Catalan Parliament’s Bureau, said that Forcadell never once used her tie-breaking vote in any parliament decision. “The president of the chamber could not stop the alteration of the agenda. It was up to the parliament,” she said.

Additional Information 

On May 14, the electoral authority stopped jailed leader Junqueras from joining a televised EU election debate, arguing that it was incompatible with the timetable of the prison where the former vice president is being held.

Also on May 14, Catalan speaker Roger Torrent met with the Council of Europe  commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatović, to talk about Spain’s “violation of rights and democratic regression.”

Catalan Independence Trial: Summary Most Important Testimonies May 6, 7, 8 and 9

May 6, Day 39 of Trial

Catalan police officers, the leaders of Catalan police and trade unions, politicians, and voters of the 2017 independence referendum testified on Monday.

– Guillot, leader of a Catalan police union, said that as legal police, they have always “obeyed the judges and prosecution.”

– Sergi Pla said it was “an enormous task for the Catalan police covering all polling stations.”

– Xavier Trias, former Mayor of Barcelona, told the court that he “didn’t see anyone” displaying violent behavior among the protestors in autumn 2017. “The people were peaceful.”

– Ireneu Alvarado, a voter of the 2017 referendum in Dosrius, explained how she was injured after Spanish police entered the polling station that he was in. “Many people had their shirts bloodied,” he said.

– General secretary of the Catalonia branch of Spain’s largest trade union (CCOO), Javier Pacheco, said that union members protested during the police raids in Catalan government buildings on September 20, 2017, because “they [the Spanish government and police] were undermining Catalonia’s self-government.”

 

May 7, Day 40 of Trial 

Voters of the 2017 independence referendum gave their testimonies and told the court their experiences of Spanish police aggression on the day of the vote.

– Pere Font, an elderly man from Barcelona, told the court that Spanish police officers grabbed him by the testicles and threw him to the ground. 

After protesting, a police officer told him, “We were sent here to do this.” Then the police officers punched him in the face.

– Joan Porras, an activist known as Joan Bona Nit for having visited the Catalan political prisoners every night to wish them goodnight while they were imprisoned in Lledoners prison: “The Catalan police seized the ballot boxes and suspended the referendum at my polling station the day of the referendum.” He also explained that there weren’t any incidents.

– Several voters of the 2017 referendum in the town of Dosrius explained that the police arrived at their polling station and then began throwing women to the floor while insulting the people who were gathered there.

– Numerous voters explained that although they knew that the referendum had been suspended [by Spanish courts], they still went to vote because they believe that “voting is the essence of democracy.”

 

May8, Day 41 of Trial

Several voters of the 2017 referendum gave their testimony about what they witnessed at their polling stations during the referendum as well as an official at the Barcelona port. 

– Marga Borràs, who voted in Tarragona, told the court that the Catalan police tried to close down her polling station, but they couldn’t do it as there were hundreds of people blocking the entrance.

– Josep Lluís Torres, who voted in Barcelona, affirmed that the voters were “happy” until they found out that the “Spanish police were attacking people less than a kilometer away from us.”

– Isabell Castell said there weren’t any violent incidents at her polling station apart from some “far-right” people throwing stones at one point.

– Montse Higueras, who voted in Barcelona, explained that the Catalan police told them the referendum couldn’t go ahead, but that the voters “peacefully” resisted and went ahead with the vote anyway.

– José Alberto Carbonell, an official at the Barcelona port, said the requests for two ships that accommodated Spanish police officers ahead of the vote was rejected as the port wasn’t designed to hold “hotel ships.” However, he eventually authorized their docking after he was informed they were state ships.

 

May 9, Day 42 of Trial

Voters of the 2017 referendum testified that the vote took place with normalcy and without any incident in those places where the Spanish police didn’t show up. They said that the Catalan police appeared in all polling stations, informing about the court orders they had, but in no case, they used force against the voters.

– Emesis Fuentes, a former Spanish police officer, explained how was the entrance of the Civil Guard [Spanish police] to the polling station where he was without any previous warning and destroying the main door.  

“If they had asked, we would have explained that the door was closed out and not inside, and that was not locked,” Fuentes explained, which caused laughter between the public and the first warning of the President of the Chamber Judge Marchena claiming silence.

Fuentes affirmed that there was no violence by the voters. He said that people ran and that the Civil Guard began to hit them to reach the door, while he contemplated it through the glass inside the school. His three sons were outside and two of them were injured. His wife was there too.