50 international personalities, including five Nobel Prize laureates and UN dignitaries, have signed a manifesto promoted by the Catalan civic organization Òmnium Cultural calling for an amnesty for the jailed, exiled and prosecuted over the 2017 independence referendum.
The manifesto argues against the use of courts by Spain “to resolve a political crisis, and urges the Spanish government to end repression and to initiate sincere dialogue with Catalonia to find a political solution that would give the citizens of Catalonia the right to decide their own political future.”
Yoko Ono, Gerry Adams, Dilma Rousseff, Ai Wei Wei, and five Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Jody Williams, Mairead Corrigan, Shirin Ebadi, Elfriede Jelinek and Adolfo Perez Esquivel are amongst the 50 signatories of the manifesto calling for amnesty and the end of repression of Catalans by Spain.
This manifesto comes ahead of Catalan elections on February 14th, which are expected to see pro-independence parties securing an absolute majority with a strong possibility of obtaining over 50% of the total votes.
The Spanish government has published an annual report of the PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition government, admitting it has not complied with its investiture agreement with the Catalan pro-independence party ERC, and only partially with the rest of political forces.
According to the document, the Spanish administration considers that the investiture agreement with the Republicans — the creation of a negotiating table to resolve the ongoing political conflict between Spain and Catalonia — is still “in-process” at 0%, and predicts it will not be fulfilled before June 2021.
Regarding other political forces, the Spanish government affirms it has already complied with 32% of the agreements with Compromís, 29% with New Canarias, 22% with the Galician Nationalist Bloc, 10% with Teruel Exists, and 7% with the Basque Nationalist Party.
Thus, the only agreements not fulfilled yet by the Sánchez administration are those with the Catalan pro-independence movement, showing once again his clear unwillingness to tackle and resolve the ongoing political conflict by democratic means.
On Tuesday, the Spanish Constitutional Court ruled by majority that insults to the Spanish flag are no longer considered freedom of expression, but a crime.
The divided Court was only able to pass the ruling by a single vote, but it established that indignities against the Spanish flag are crimes as they are not protected by the right to freedom of expression. It did so by dismissing an appeal filed by the trade union, Galician Intersindical Confederation, which was condemned for an offense against the flag in using phrases such as “here I heard the silence of the fucking flag” and “you have to set fire to the fucking flag.”
The trade union alleged that their freedom of expression has been violated. However, the court considered that these expressions were without the protection of fundamental rights.
Five of the court’s twelve judges voted against the decision: Andrés Ollero Tasara, Juan Antonio Xiol Ríos, Cándido Conde-Pumpido Tourón, Encarnación Roca Trías and María Luisa Balaguer Callejón.
Prestigious lawyers such as Gonzalo Boye are considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, says that is problematic if states do not follow UN recommendations in reference to the Spanish State’s failure to comply with the resolution of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions calling for the release of Catalan pro-independence political prisoners.
The annual report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions of the UN, released in September, already recalled that Spain had not implemented its request to release seven of the nine Catalan political prisoners: Jordi Sànchez, Jordi Cuixart, Oriol Junqueras, Quim Forn, Josep Rull, Raül Romeva and Dolors Bassa.
The president of the UN Group, José Antonio Guevara, also insisted on the release of those seven political prisoners in the past and asked not to divert attention from this request, which he believed was “a most important issue.”
Spain’s former King Juan Carlos, who is currently under investigation for corruption and money laundering, pressured the Spanish government in order to receive special 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 personally directed a complaint towards the then Prime Minister of Spain José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (PSOE), despite the fact that the Spanish Constitution declares that the monarchy and the executive branch must be separate and free of interference.
Juan Carlos also called Bono during the latter’s 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.
In another interview for La Sexta, Former Minister Margallo (PP) defended Juan Carlos against criticism and praised his intense patriotism: “I have never met anyone who has the love for Spain that Juan Carlos de Bourbon has, his passion for Spain is truly emotional,” he said. Margallo asked that the reign of Juan Carlos not be judged based on alleged corruption and money laundering, holding 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.