Interview with Gonzalo Boyé – Spain: “The EU Cannot Overlook the Intimidation of Lawyers Defending Political Opponents in Spain”

Oh yes the EU can. And the EU will. The EU’s greatest enemy is democracy, especially the national state that embodies this. Citizens’ rights are the greatest threat to EU authority, just ask Xi Jinping. That is why the EU is tolerating state terrorism in Spain.

Toni Strubell  is a former MP in the Catalan Parliament, journalist, and author of What Catalans Want

Núria Bassa is a photojournalist in Catalonia

Gonzalo Boyé is the main lawyer in the defence of Catalan ex-president Carles Puigdemont and several other pro-independence leaders in Spain. In recent months, this Chilean-born jurist has suffered several suspicious incidents that some observers believe are attempts to “destabilize” his professional activity in the defence of Catalan leaders. His office has suffered two search operations (one judicial, one a break-in) and last week his bank assets were confiscated by Spain’s main special court, the Audiencia Nacional.

This latter step comes in relation to a long-expired 1996 court ruling regarding his alleged participation in an ETA kidnapping involving industrialist Emiliano Revilla, an incident that Sr. Boyé has always denied any participation in. He is now being called upon to pay €1.2M compensation to Sr. Revilla despite the 92-year-old ETA victim – retired in England – never having made such a claim before. Indeed, Sr. Boyé claims Sr. Revilla explicitly waived any compensation at the 1996 trial, 24 years ago. Current Spanish law lays down that the claim for such compensation expires five years after a trial has finished. So who –and why – is using Sr. Revilla to try to pin this penalty on Mr Boyé twenty-four years down the line? Will this case end up joining the growing pile of judicial irregularities that Catalan lawyers – some of whom have been accused of excessive “victimism”– are planning to send to the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg and/or the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg?

To what do you attribute this week’s freezing of your bank assets?

I think that in Spain there are radical right-wing sectors who are very unhappy about the work I am carrying out as defence lawyer to president Puigdemont and other exiled politicians. Members of these reactionary sectors, who identify themselves with the worst periods of Franco’s rule, hold high office in Spain’s Supreme Court and the Audiencia Nacional* as well as in the State security and police forces. I have never denied that true judicial independence exists in Spain. But the real problem is that the judiciary has no counter-power or compensatory mechanisms to allow it to be held accountable for its actions. It also has its own political agenda, a factor which transforms it into a key political actor with absolute power over everything that happens in Spain. And I’m not sure just how aware Europe is of this.

Your office has suffered two search operations in recent times, one official, one “unidentified”. What do you attribute this to?

Well, on the first occasion, on October 21 2019, the search was carried out with a court order to take my emails and to make a copy of all the content on my phone. The second time round, we do not know whom the search was conducted by, but my entire office was combed. They tried to access our office server, where they believed that everything related to the defence of President Puigdemont was stored. These are clear warnings to the effect that they have the full power and capability to do whatever they want. They aim to intimidate me and my team, but they will not succeed.

How do you rate the reaction of the authorities and independent professional associations to these incidents?

Well, as far as the authorities are concerned, I think their capacity to react is so slow that no reaction has as yet been perceived, despite the serious nature of the incidents involved. As regards the independent professional associations, some have reported them but many others have overlooked the matter or even tried to further damage my image, making me out to be responsible for them in some way, rather than portraying me as a victim of an act that in any normal democratic country would be considered a very serious affair.

What are the major challenges now facing the defence of the Catalan independence leaders?

On the one hand, we are now working on the question of the European Parliament’s request for the waiving of the parliamentary immunity of three Catalan MEPs (Mr. Puigdemont, Mr. Comín and newcomer Ms. Ponsatí). We are also working on the criminal case against the exiles and Spain’s consequent European Arrest Warrant and their surrender. But, as the United Nations has insisted, this is a case of political persecution. This is reflected in the way the request for the waiving of their immunity has been raised. They are not seeking authorization to charge and try them, but simply to imprison them because, according to the Spanish Supreme Court, to try three MEPs, they do not need to ask for anyone’s permission.

What do you make of these requests for the waiving of these MEPs’ parliamentary immunity?

Never before has the European Parliament been faced with a request for the waiving of MEPs’ immunity that so clearly goes against their rights. It also goes against the Parliament’s own sovereignty. This is not a question of whether Puigdemont, Comín or Ponsatí should be prosecuted or not, but simply a petition to imprison those who represent the non-violent resistance of the Catalan national minority to state authoritarianism, a movement which is merely seeking to assert its rights in the framework of the European Union.

How would you consider this case as regards the struggle for a more democratic Europe?

The situation created with this case is a true reflection of what we still have to go through to achieve a truly united Europe. Among other things, the harmonization of criminal codes so that in less democratic countries there cannot continue to be forms of behaviour that are classified as “criminal” that are not thus regarded in the rest of the Union. This is just one example of what the “Catalan case” – that I would call the “Spanish case”– is showing up as regards the reality of Spain and Europe’s needs, because it is in Spain where things are going wrong, not in Catalonia.

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