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.”
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.
The Spanish High Court in Catalonia (TSJC) rules that Barcelona’s City Council must give back the city’s gold medal to former Spanish Francoist minister Rodolfo Martín Villa. The conservative judges argued that “the council couldn’t withdraw it because awards can only be withdrawn when there are unknown contemporary facts at the time this is granted,” which they said is not the case.
Martín Villa (87) is under investigation in Argentina for crimes against humanity. He held several public positions during Franco’s dictatorship before becoming a minister. He was awarded the Catalan capital’s highest distinction in 1976 by a mayor he himself had appointed only months earlier.
Villa is subject to an investigation by Argentine judge María Servini into Franco-era crimes, as well as those that took place during the transition. The pre-democratic 1977 Amnesty Law prevent this from happening in Spain. Villa is accused of being involved in the massacre of workers, students, protesters, as well as police violence.
On Tuesday, the inspector of the Information Brigade of the Spanish National Police, who assaulted the photo-journalist Jordi Borràs, agreed to a one-year prison sentence. He will pay 7,000 euros as compensation, in addition to all court costs.
Borràs: “The man admitted before the judge that it was an aggression for ideological reasons and he accepted a year of imprisonment and a compensation of 7,000 euros. Victory against all odds.”
The journalist believes that he was fortunate to have witnesses. “It has already been shown that I am innocent and he is the culprit. He must be expelled from the corps, I will not accept anything else,” Borràs said.
His lawyer, Carla Val: “Jordi’s unjust prosecution ends today and we have achieved the sentence he deserves, as well as a course on violence prevention and a human rights course.”
Borràs was attacked in July 2018 in the heart of Barcelona. A man identified him and slammed into him while shouting “Long live Spain and long live Franco.” The prosecution considered the inspector responsible for a crime of injury with the aggravating factor of discrimination on ideological grounds. During this time, the officer had maintained a false accusation against Borràs, arguing that he had beaten the officer. Three years after, the case was resolved in Tuesday’s hearing in the City of Justice of Barcelona.
Following an appeal by the Belgian prosecutor’s office, the Court of Cassation of Brussels ordered a partial extradition re-trial of Josep Miquel Arenas, alias Valtònyc, on Tuesday. The Belgian high court asked to review the sentence issued by the Ghent Court of Appeal, which on December 28 rejected the extradition of the rapper, convicted in Spain for alleged glorification of terrorism, insults to the crown, and threats.
In the ruling, the Court of Cassation made it clear that the re-trial will be partial and will only focus on the alleged crime of insulting the crown on his song lyrics.
Valtònyc’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, believes his extradition will be refused again and made a clarification. “Court of Cassation case @valtonyc dismisses Ghent prosecutor’s appeal for crimes of glorification of terrorism and threats, orders return of case to Ghent Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision only for the crime of insulting the Crown” – Gonzalo Boye (@boye_g) January 18, 2022
In fact, the crime to be tried again, that of insulting the crown, took the court by surprise because it did not exist in Belgian law. There was a Belgian law against insulting the king, which dated from 1847 and imposed sentences of up to three years in prison. But the court itself had doubts about the application of this crime. It consulted its legality in the Constitutional Court, which ruled that it was unconstitutional because it did not respect freedom of expression and violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
In this way, the Belgian Constitutional Court overturned the law and at the same time broke the double criminality in Belgium and Spain that would have allowed the extradition for this crime.
On Tuesday at the National Court of Spain, former Spanish police commissioner José Manuel Villarejo, said that the Spanish National Intelligence Service (CNI) was behind the 2017 terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils. He said the aim was to destabilize Catalonia before the independence referendum. However, the outcome of 16 deaths was a miscalculation.
“The CNI miscalculated the consequences of giving Catalonia a little scare,” said Villarejo during the trial of three of the branches of the Tandem case that is being heard in the Spanish National Court, the Court is reviewing several tasks that the former commissioner carried out.
Some analysts and media have been pointing out for years, that the attacks may have been intended to interfere with Catalonia’s independence referendum. Spain has always refused to investigate the matter.
On Tuesday, the Ghent Court of Appeals rejected the extradition request for Catalan language rapper, Valtònyc, arguing that the crimes he was accused of are protected as free speech. Spanish “justice” sentenced him to three and a half years in prison for his song lyrics for the alleged crimes of insulting the crown, glorifying terrorism, and making threats.
The rapper’s lawyer, Simon Bekaert, was confident that the magistrates would not extradite his client to Spain. He considered the crimes that the rapper was accused of were protected as free speech. “Victory! After three years of legal procedures, an appeal to the European Court of Justice and to the Belgian Constitutional Court, the Court of Appeals ruled that Valtònyc cannot be extradited. It was a good day for music and freedom of expression.”
Valtònyc said that on a personal level he was “happy,” but at the same time, he felt “very angry and very helpless” about his fellow artists who are serving time in Spain for the contents of their lyrics. “If Spain is a fascist state and it’s back in the 18th century, it is because it wants to be,” he added.
The Ghent Court of Appeals asked the Belgian Constitutional Court over a year ago if Valtònyc’s prosecution was in violation of the principle of free speech. As a result, the Belgian Constitutional Court struck down the 1847 country’s own law against slander of the monarchy in October 2021 and ruled that the crimes the rapper was accused of was free speech.
Spain’s King Emeritus Juan Carlos, who fled the country after being accused of money laundering and corruption, has sealed a deal with the royal house and the Spanish government to return to Spain in February, according to the Spanish media.
The former king’s return comes after all accusations against him were suspiciously and suddenly withdrawn by Spanish and Swiss justice. It means he will have total freedom and impunity from those charges in Spanish territory. His return is expected to be discreet in order to avoid the social unrest that has been mounting over the years as the monarchy have been involved in several cases of corruption over the last decade.
King Felipe, who already has an authoritarian image after endorsing repression against national minorities and more precisely Catalonia, is expected to keep distant from his father in an initial attempt to improve his image and avoid social tensions against him. However, he has authorized his father’s return to Spain. This is likely going to cause more social unrest over the next few months.
Whether or not social unrest is avoidable or will grow over the next few months remains a mystery. But what is clear is that the only possible solution for the citizens to recover trust in democracy and institutions is to have a say in the future of the monarchy.
As the monarchy was imposed by a dictator, a referendum would give the citizens a chance to freely decide whether to support the current monarchy or to turn a new page and implement a republic that could represent all citizens.
The High Court of Justice (TSJC) has sentenced the pro-independence MP and Parliament Bureau member, Pau Juvillà (CUP), to a 6-month ban from holding public office and a fine of €1,080. He is accused of disobedience for not removing a few yellow ribbons from his office when he was a councilor of the Lleida City Hall in 2019.
Yellow ribbons have represented solidarity with political prisoners and exiles since 2017, when Catalonia organized a self-determination referendum, which was repressed by the Spanish state.
The unionist Ciudadanos party filed a complaint against Juvillà to the Electoral board for displaying what they described as partisan symbols, though they represented the whole society, during an electoral period. The councilor refused to take them down and the police eventually did it.
During the trial, Juvillà alleged that, as a councilor of the Lleida City Hall, he did not take down the ribbons, so as not to self-censor or injure ideological freedom.
The public prosecutor had requested an 8-month disqualification from public office as well as a €1,440-fine. Due to Juvillà becoming an MP in the Catalan Parliament following the February 14 elections, the case had to be tried in the High Court.
The CUP party reacted to the ruling, demanding a “clear, forceful and joint response” from Parliament against repression and “defending the sovereignty of the chamber and elected officials.” The far-left party wants to use all judicial approaches available and will present an appeal to the Supreme Court, and also plans to take the case to Strasbourg.
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, has denied any link between the EU intelligence agency and the New York Times report on the links between the Kremlin and the Catalan independence movement. This comes following a EU parliamentary question raised by exiled Catalan MEPs Carles Puigdemont, Toni Comín, and Clara Ponsatí.
A September article in the “New York Times” stated that trusted sources from the EU INTCEN, and EU intelligence agency, had confirmed to them that Josep Lluís Alay, Head of Office of exiled Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, had traveled to Russia to gain the Kremlin’s support for independence. The article also falsely suggested that Russia was behind the civil disobedience platform Tsunami Democràtic.
Exiled President Puigdemont and his Head of Office, Alay, denied the accusations and challenged the newspaper to show evidence. Political parties in Spain, including the far-right and neo-Nazis, used it to launch an international smear campaign against the independence movement. Puigdemont tweeted that the disengagement of the intelligence agency “should make someone think, especially those who seized the opportunity to take advantage of.”
Gonzalo Boye, the lawyer of Puigdemont and Alay, asked the New York Times to show from which agency the report came, since it would not affect the sources in any possible way. “It would be very interesting for them to put this alleged report on the table.”
However, the NYT refused to show evidence, which confirms that this was a mere fabrication to discredit the independence movement. Clarifications about who was behind it, their real motivations, and whether they got special funding from any Spanish institution are needed for public interest and accountability.