Revealed: Massive Espionage of Catalans by Spain

Over 65 Catalan pro-independence leaders, activists and lawyers, as well as thousands of citizens have been massively spied upon by Spain, using the Israeli Pegasus spyware, according to revelations disclosed by the prestigious Canadian NGO, The Citizen Lab.

The attack on Catalan leaders is the largest in the world using the Pegasus spyware, which can only be bought by states. An important fact, which has not left anyone indifferent.

John Scott-Railton, a senior investigator at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab high-tech human rights abuses research group: “There is solid circumstantial evidence to suggest that the perpetrators of the espionage with Pegasus spyware is one or more entities in the Spanish government.”

List of some of the leaders affected by the espionage

Presidents

– Catalan President Pere Aragonès

– Former President Carles Puigdemont

– Former President Quim Torra

– Former President Artur Mas

Members of the European Parliament

– Clara Ponsatí (Junts)

– Antoni Comín (Junts)

– Diana Riba (ERC)

– Jordi Solé (ERC)

Catalan Civil Society

– Jordi Sànchez, former President of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC)

– Elisenda Paluzie, President of the ANC.

– Sònia Urpí, board member of the ANC.

– Jordi Cuixart, former President of Òmnium Cultural.

– Marcel Mauri, former Vice-President of Òmnium Cultural.

– Jordi Bosch, board member of Òmnium Cultural.

– Elena Jiménez, board member of Òmnium Cultural.

Lawyers

Gonzalo Boye, representing Puigdemont as well as many Catalan pro-independence figures.

– Andreu Van den Eynde, representing leaders such as Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Roger Torrent, and Ernest Maragall.

– Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, a lawyer who represented Carles Puigdemont.

Speakers

– Roger Torrent, former Parliament speaker.

– The current speaker, Laura Borràs.

Parties

– Esquerra Republicana (ERC): 12 members targeted

– Junts: 11 members targeted

– CUP: 4 members targeted.

– PDeCAT: 3 members targeted.

Collateral damage

The mass espionage of Catalan leaders, lawyers, and civil society figures has also affected thousands of ordinary citizens.

Poll: Over 71% of Catalan Pro-Independence Activists Are Willing to Participate in Acts of Peaceful Civil Disobedience

71.3% of pro-independence activists are willing to participate in acts of peaceful civil disobedience to achieve the independence of Catalonia, according to a survey published by the Catalonia Global Institute and carried out by GESOP.

The study indicates the majority of individuals of various backgrounds are willing to participate in non-violent civil disobedience movements for independence. Nevertheless, there are differences in opinions between parties.

The CUP voters are the most supportive (86%), followed by Junts per Catalunya (72.9%), and Esquerra Republicana (60%). By age, 76.9% of the respondents 16 to 29 years old are in favor, a percentage that falls to 71.7% among those 30 to 44 years old, and 69.8% among those 45 to 59 years old, and 69% among those 60 years old or older.

The survey of the Catalonia Global Institute was based in a sample of 1603 territorially segmented people. The survey directly asked: “Would you be willing to participate in a movement of peaceful civil disobedience to achieve independence?”


The Ghent Court of Appeal will Announce the Final Decision on the Extradition of Catalan Countries’ Rapper Valtònyc on May 17

The Ghent Court of Appeal in Belgium will announce the final decision on the extradition of Catalan Countries’ rapper Valtònyc on May 17, after re-examining his case.

The same court had already rejected his extradition last December, arguing that the crimes for which he was convicted in Spain – inciting terrorism, insults to the crown, and threats – did not fit within the Belgian penal code, an essential situation for the execution of an extradition order. However, the Belgian Court of Cassation scheduled another trial after an appeal was filed by the prosecutors, who represent Spain’s interests. The reason being to analyze whether insults to the Spanish crown would be the same crime as insults to deputies, ministers, and officials.

Valtònyc : “I think it is interesting that a court of the European Union is debating what is happening in Spain in relation to its freedom of expression.”

The rapper’s case already motivated the annulment by the Constitutional Court of a law of 1847 that protected the Belgian king from insults. This happened after the Ghent Court of Appeal asked the Belgian Constitutional Court whether the law of Lèse-majesté was constitutional, arguing that it did not respect freedom of expression.

In the hypothetical case that Belgian justice agrees on the extradition of Valtonyc, Spain could only make him comply with the sentence for the crime of insults to the crown.

The Council of Europe Denounces Spain’s Inaction against Corruption

The Council of Europe denounced Spain’s inaction against corruption. This is stated in a report carried out by the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), which was made public earlier this week.

The report shows that the Spanish government has not complied with any of the nineteen recommendations made by GRECO to improve the transparency and functioning of the administration or to prevent corruption. Only seven have been partially fulfilled.

GRECO found especially disappointing the lack of progress in building an “ethical infrastructure” within police forces. More specifically, it pointed out that the Civil Guard made “some progress,” but did not see any “concrete improvement” in the case of the National Police.

On the political front, GRECO denounced the failure by the state to take steps to strengthen transparency among its advisers and to establish a strategy to mitigate the risks of corruption in the case of senior officials.

Additionally, GRECO did not see any progress in the recommendation to ensure that the Transparency and Good Governance Council has “adequate independence, authority, and resources to function effectively.”

The report notes that the state has also made no progress in establishing rules on the relationship between senior officials and lobbies or in recommending the expansion of public information on the assets of senior officials. Moreover, the state has also neglected the overseeing of possible conflicts of interest.

In regard to gauging, GRECO denounced that the recommendation to amend this “special process” has not been implemented so as not to “obstruct” the proceedings in cases of high-ranking officials accused of corruption.

The High Court of England and Wales Rules against Spain’s Former King Juan Carlos’ Immunity

The High Court of England and Wales ruled that former king of Spain Juan Carlos no longer has immunity and can be judged on British territory. The court argued that he is no longer a “sovereign” or “head of state” following his abdication in 2014.

The High Court (based in London) will now move forward with the former king’s ex-lover Corinna (Larsen) zu Sayn-Wittgenstein’s harassment allegations. The businesswoman filed a lawsuit against the former king in 2021 for “defamation, threats, and follow-ups” from 2012 to the present. She also denounced attempts by the Spanish Secret Services to enter her house and place a tracking beacon on her car.

Larsen said she suffered from “anxiety, humiliation, and moral stigma.” This led to the depression that isolated her from her kids, friends, and business partners.

“If the case goes further, the Defendant will have an opportunity to defend himself against any claims made towards him. Ultimately, the Court will hear evidence and make a decision after a trial,” the ruling reads.

The defendant, Juan Carlos, cited sovereign immunity, as a member of the Spanish royal household, to evade scrutiny. However, the court rejected his status.

“The fact that the Defendant has been granted a special constitutional status in Spain does not make him a sovereign,” the ruling reads. “Since he abdicated in 2014, the Defendant is not the head of state of Spain,” the court stated.

In the past few years, Spain’s former king Juan Carlos has been involved in several cases of corruption and money laundering.

Exiled Catalan Leader Clara Ponsatí: “Sacrifices Are Needed to Achieve Independence”

Catalan leader and former minister Clara Ponsatí said during an interview for the Spanish public broadcaster TVE that “sacrifices to achieve independence are needed, including withstanding Spanish extreme violence.” Additionally, she clarified that she is against any sort of violence.

The exiled Catalan leader also considered it as “paternalistic” that political leaders said, in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum, that the implementation of independence was not going to be pursued, arguing that “there could be deaths due to Spanish violence.”

Ponsatí defended that dying for a cause “is not a strange situation” in the course of history. “In all the great causes there have been important sacrifices and everyone must know what one is willing to sacrifice.” When asked directly if she would be willing to die for the independence of Catalonia, she said that “obviously she would try to avoid it by all means” but added that “it is not a strange situation” in the course of history.

As for the “negotiations” with Spain, Ponsatí said that they don’t exist and it is just a “fantasy.”

The Spanish Army Had a Plan to Intervene in Catalonia in the Aftermath of the 2017 Independence Referendum

Earlier this week, Fernando Alejandre, a general of Spain’s army, revealed that the army had a plan to intervene in Catalonia in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum.

In an interview with the newspaper ABC, Alejandre affirmed that the former Minister of Defense, María Dolores Cospedal, ordered him to prepare a plan to intervene in Catalonia in case independence was implemented. According to the former general, the plan was not activated because the declaration of independence lasted for only “12” seconds before its suspension.  

“The plan was aimed at supporting Spanish police forces, which included diverse actions, from logistical support to the protection of sensitive facilities and infrastructure,” said the former general.  According to him, this plan “was going to be a good starting point.” On this basis, “this would be an operation that could be adjusted in each comment, depending on how the situation evolved.”

The former general also affirmed that the Army “had fairly reliable information on the situation, including the capabilities of the Committees for the Defense of the Republic (CDR), and the situation of the Catalan police (Mossos d’Esquadra).”

Alejandre also added that Cospedal was “concerned that there was not the slightest leak of what we were going to do” but that “she agreed that we should be prepared.” According to him, the then minister asked him to “keep the circle even closer, so that I could write a draft of the directive myself. The military did so and she signed it a couple of days later.” 

EU Justice Rules that European Arrest Warrants Can Be Refused Under Certain Circumstances

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) rules that European Arrest Warrants (EAW) can be refused under certain circumstances, which is an important precedent for Catalan exiles. This case responds to pre-trial questions raised by the Dutch judiciary over doubts about the extradition of two Polish nationals demanded by their country’s judiciary through a European Arrest Warrant. Dutch judges saw that there was a real risk of violation of their right to an independent judge and trial.

The ECJ’s response is that judges in the country of which the Arrest Warrant is being addressed have an obligation to examine all the information provided by the person concerned as to decide whether their right to an impartial judge has been violated.

This is a very important precedent for exiled Catalan leaders Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, Clara Ponsatí and Lluís Puig (as well as the rest of the exiles) who could see their extradition requests refused. This procedure, with a pending date for a hearing, began as a reaction from Spain’s Supreme Court Judge Pablo Llarena to the final decision of Belgian justice to refuse the extradition of Lluís Puig. Belgian justice argued that his rights to have an independent trial and presumption of innocence had been violated by Spain. This decision was made taking into account public statements by Spanish political leaders and among other things, warnings made by the United Nations arbitrary detention group.


The Catalan Council for the Republic Announces the Creation of the “Free Ministry for Foreign Affairs” of Catalonia

On Wednesday, the Catalan Council for the Republic announced the creation of the “Free Ministry for Foreign Affairs” of Catalonia, an instrument to internationalize the conflict between Catalonia and Spain. This will be formed by Catalans living across the world.

The Council called on Catalans living abroad to take part in this effort and complement the work of the autonomous government, which does not have enough freedom. “What we are doing is establishing a diplomatic network, but it will work like any other ministry. There will be coordination, training, and other aspects that we will be explained soon.”

The Council also said that it should serve to “prepare the confrontation” once the “negotiations” with Spain fail. “The roadmap for independence implies to confront Spain. The fight is strategic for the whole movement. We will look for great alliances for self-determination.” It is about “complementing” and not “replacing” the government’s external network.

“This international strategy has been worked on for a long time. From the beginning, we were convinced that this was one of the pillars of the Council,” said exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

Puigdemont insisted that the Council does not intend to replace the government of Catalonia. “We will come into action whenever Spain blocks the action of the Catalan government. This is one of the missions of the Council for the Republic and we can do it without fear, without asking permission from anyone or being afraid of Spanish repression.”

The Spanish Government Refuses Dialogue with Catalonia

On Wednesday, the Spanish government once again refused dialogue with Catalonia and decided to postpone negotiations with Catalonia until “relevant agreements” can be reached, despite the fact that such agreements could not be reached without dialogue and negotiations.

These statements made by the spokesperson for the Spanish government, Isabel Rodríguez, come after the Catalan government called on the Spanish administration to hold serious negotiations to solve the ongoing conflict.

“The Sánchez administration only looks for excuses to avoid negotiations. We ask the Government to work on past commitments and not to look at any other side or look for excuses,” said spokeswoman for ERC, Marta Vilalta.

The Spanish government has been seeking to discuss minor issues in bilateral commissions and in the conference of autonomous presidents. Therefore, the next meeting will be held on February 25th, where the Spanish government expects to adopt unilateral decisions.

The agreement between Spain’s PM Pedro Sánchez and ERC was signed in early January 2020. It was specified that negotiations on resolving the political conflict would begin within two weeks and would take place monthly. Since then, only two meetings have been held without any discussion on the political conflict.