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.
On Wednesday, the Spanish National Court acquitted the former Catalan leadership of the Catalan police: Chief Josep Lluís Trapero, Superintendent Teresa Laplana, the former Secretary-General of the Department of Interior Cèsar Puig and the former Director-General of the Mossos Pere Soler for their role in the 2017 independence referendum.
The public prosecutor was asking for 10 years in prison for Trapero, Puig and Soler for sedition or alternatively twenty months of disqualification for the crime of disobedience. For Laplana, the prosecutor asked for four years in prison for sedition or one year of disqualification for disobedience. The Public Prosecutor’s Office will now study the ruling and decide whether to appeal it.
The judgment dismantles the main arguments against the political prisoners
The verdict was based on the lack of proof that any of the defendants violated the rulings of the Constitutional Court, the Spanish High Court in Catalonia or the Public Prosecutor’s Office. It also states that it has not been proven that the defendants agreed with the government to promote the “passivity” of the Catalan police during the 2017 independence referendum.
The verdict also contradicts the sentences given to the political prisoners for sedition. It states that the Catalan police acted with proportionality, congruence and opportunity during the referendum because in case of having “used violence the situation in polling stations could have led to serious public disorder.” As for the events of September 20, 2017, the resolution details that the protest, for which Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart are imprisoned, took place “without major violent incidents during the morning and afternoon, besides the ‘destruction’ of a few cars.”
Some 66.5% of Catalans would vote in favor of a republic in a referendum on the monarchy in Spain. Only 14.6% would support the monarchy.
The survey was carried out by sixteen media outlets, based on 3,000 interviews throughout Spain, including 500 in Catalonia.
Across Spain, 40.9% would vote for the Republic while 34.9% would vote for the monarchy.
Among the various institutions mentioned in the survey, Catalonia gave the worst approval rating to the Catholic Church, 2.3 out of 10.
King Felipe VI received a rating of 3.6 from Catalans versus 5.8 from the whole of Spain.
Former king, Juan Carlos I, who fled the country amid allegations of corruption, has a 1.9 rating in Catalonia and 3.3 in Spain.
Satisfaction with the monarchy in Catalonia is 2.9 with almost half of the Catalans rating the monarchy with a 0 or 1. In Spain the support is 4.6.
The support for the monarchy remains high among right wing and far right voters, while it is very low among left wing voters. A Republic is preferred by young people and the monarchy by those over 55 years of age.
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 Andorran justice will investigate former Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy and the members of his former administration Cristóbal Montoro, Jorge Fernández Díaz and Francisco Martínez for alleged coercion against the Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA). The organization that filed the lawsuit, the Institute of Human Rights of Andorra (IDHA), claims that the former Spanish government threatened to shut down the Andorran bank if it did not provide them with politically-useful information and when the bank refused it, Spain put its threat into action by reporting alleged money-laundering activities to the US Treasury Department, which acted swiftly.
According to the private prosecution, the coercion and threats to the Bank took place during an official visit of Rajoy and Montoro to Andorra in January 2015, when they met with the head of the Andorran government, Toni Martí and other ministers.
The Institute of Human Rights of Andorra (IDHA) claims that the visit was intended to obtain information on Catalan pro-independence politicians. The Andorran justice will investigate all the offenses they are accused of by the private prosecution.
In another case of May and June 2014, it was stated that four Spanish police officers had threatened, coerced and extorted three BPA executives in an attempt to extract information on alleged bank accounts of Catalan pro-independence politicians under the threat that the “bank could end up being blocked from activity,” which is what eventually happened.
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.