The hypocrisy of the EU is fathomless. Last week the EU Parliament voted that black lives matter, while yearly paying billions to have African refugees drown in the Mediterranean Sea, or be enslaved and tortured in Libya. While attacking the Polish justice system, as we see in this article, with Spain the EU contains one of the most iniquitous justice systems in the world.
You can read PART II here
Toni Strubell is a former MP in the Catalan Parliament, journalist, and author of What Catalans Want
Núria Bassa Camps is a Catalan Photo Journalist
Although the term lawfare has been around since 1975 to describe the abuse of the judiciary for political ends, few states in Europe can compete with the unrestrained usage it gets in Spain today. It is a tool designed to allow the apparently legal disqualification (arrest, smearing, accusations, suspension, conviction etc.) of political opponents through judicial ploys and framing operations. Spanish prime ministers such as the Conservative Rajoy and the Social Democrat Sánchez actually bragged about deploying it while former Conservative Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Diez even boasted of the creation of a “patriotic police” to exercise it more effectively. But did any prosecutor’s ears prick up? Sorry? What in any normal country would make a government topple, if made public, in Spain causes little more than a passing tremor. As Franco’s propaganda claimed, indeed, Spain is different.
The word “lawfare” sprang into the mainstream Spanish media last June for all the wrong reasons. Not to denounce the judicial lynching of an innocent activists or some poor rapper jailed for his/her lyrics (see here) but to report that the Guardia Civil (GC) had trumped up a report criticizing the “social democratic” government for its COVID19 methods. Of course, when it is a government that is “lawfared”, the backlash knows no limits. This would explain the government’s dismissal of hitherto “lawfare hero” Diego Pérez de los Cobos. This GC colonel’s lies had been invaluable in framing Catalan ministers and activists at the infamous October 1 Referendum trial. Spain’s political elite cheered him then of course. But a practice that was perfect for damning political opponents was suddenly found to boomerang back in the face of the very government that had hitherto made optimal use of this legal monopoly.
In this article, we review 8 different cases – chosen at random – in which lawfare is being applied in Spain: against social activists, youngsters involved in a bar brawl, Catalan government ministers, lawyers, Republican activists, political election rivals and even well-meaning teachers. No one is safe if they have the wrong ideology. To get them out of the way, preposterous police reports are repeatedly given credibility by jingoistic judges and politically-motivated prosecutors who enjoy the watertight protection of Spain’s deep State. They can all feel free to act against Spain’s “enemies” in the full knowledge that an intervention by the EU Court of Human Rights and EU rebuke, if it occurs at all, will arrive late and be marked by mealy-mouthed, middle-of-the-road reparations of no consequence. It is an integral part of a strategy aimed at preventing political dissent from gaining momentum and to protect Madrid’s nationalist government from suffering any kind of international embarrassment.
1 The “Jordis” case. Lawfare against activists
In this famous case, Guardia Civil (GC) reports were instrumental in construing a police version that led to nine-year prison sentences for social activists Jordi Sánchez (president of the Catalan National Assembly) and Jordi Cuixart (president of Òmnium Cultural). They were charged with sedition and made responsible for the September 20th 2017 rally (at which 40.000 demonstrators protested against what was seen as an arbitrary Guardia Civil inspection of the Catalan government’s Economy Department, weeks before the Referendum).
The first report, later to be ratified at the Supreme Court trial, conjured up an apocalyptic scenario of insurrection with massive damage to police vehicles, throwing of objects, attempted occupation of the Department and immobilisation of the judicial agents and policemen carrying out the search. Here are some of the rigged police testimonies and fake prosecution versions that proved most effective in the conviction of the defendants:
Prosecutor Fidel Cadena used the word “devastation” to describe the state of seven Guardia Civil (GC) vehicles after the rally. However, images of the vehicles originally provided by the GC show that no more than three vehicles were affected. Cuixart and Sánchez were portrayed as rabid revolutionaries standing on those vehicles to incite the crowd. It was not taken into consideration, though, that journalists had done the same throughout the day. What’s more, on doing so, the activist were not out to harangue demonstrators at all but to ask them to end the rally and return home.
GC agents alleged that in 25 years of service (including high-risk operations against organised crime and drug traffickers etc.), they had “never seen anything like it”, nor anything so violent. However, when defence lawyers asked these very same GC agents if they were able to carry out the search unheeded, they said that they had. When asked if there were injuries to GC agents or judicial staff, the answer was no.
The GC story speaks of a “shower of objects and bottles” thrown at them at the rally. However, when asked to specify how many bottles were thrown, the answer was “maybe two or five”. One GC agent, when asked if those objects might not have been carnations, expressed some doubt. He ended up saying that, indeed, at the beginning, flowers had been thrown at them.
The most scandalous irregularity at the trial, though, as denounced by jurists and international observers, was judge Marchena’s refusal to allow synchronised video tracking to prove GC witnesses were lying about the “violence” deployed by demonstrators.
Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez today continue to be incarcerated in Lledoners prison, as they have been for almost three years, with preposterous nine-year prison sentences. Among many other organisations, Amnesty International and the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention have repeatedly called for their release.
2 The Altsasu youngsters. From pub brawl to “act of terrorism”
Eight youngsters from Altsasu (Navarre) were accused of “terrorism” after a fight occurring in a bar in the early hours of June 15 2016. Involved in the fight were two off-duty Guardia Civil (GC) who amazingly emerged from the scrap with shirts unscathed. Further irregularities studded both the legal procedings and the police version of the events that led to those eight youngsters getting long prison sentences. Here are several key points:
Their trial should never have been conducted in the Audiencia Nacional special court in Madrid, but in the prescribed provincial court in Navarre. Defining the case as “terrorism” was what permitted that. In addition, one of the magistrates judging the case was Concepción Espejel, wife of a high-ranking member of the Guardia Civil and proud holder of the Guardia Civil’s Order of Merit medal. What kind of impartiality could be expected?
The first report sent by the GC to the court in Pamplona at no time spoke of “terrorism” but of a possible “hate crime”. However this version was to change when judge Lamela called for a fresh GC report which substituted the expression “hate crime” for that of “terrorism”. Meanwhile, unionist press published front-page incriminating police archive photos of eight of the accused.
Though the witnesses proposed by the prosecution were all accepted, the twenty-five witnesses called for by the defence were all turned down. One of the highlights of the trial was the incriminating statement alleged by the police to have been made by bar-owner Losu, a witness to the whole fight. However, he denied ever having declared that the fight had been “premeditated” or that those accused of taking part in it “knew how to hit”. Indeed, his signature was not even on the statement he allegedly made.
The Audiencia Nacional convicted Oihan and Iñaki to 13 years of prison. Jokin and Adur were sentenced to 12. Jon Ander, Julen and Aratz, to nine, and finally, Ainara to two. Massive demonstrations in favour of the youngsters have rocked Navarre on repeated occasions. The international press (The Guardian, The Washington Post, Financial Times etc.) and agencies such as Associated Press, published critical articles on the ‘Altsasu Case’, questioning the impartiality of the Spanish Judiciary and considering the sentences “disproportionate”. They also criticized the partial way in which judges are appointed, accusing the Spanish judiciary of conserving the essence of the Francoist era.
3 Dolors Bassa. Lawfare against a minister
A twelve-year prison sentence and a twelve-year office-suspension for sedition and embezzlement, was the sentence imposed on Dolors Bassa, former Catalan Minister of Labour, Social and Family Affairs. It is the most severe one after that passed on vice president Oriol Junqueres (13 years). Her disproportionate sentence can only be put down to the lack of attention paid by the judges to the evidence and conclusions presented by the defence, while giving full credibility to Guardia Civil reports and the conclusions of the prosecutors. Several weighty errors and responsibilities falsely imputed to minister Bassa were to be instrumental. But two stand out. According to the Supreme Court judges, Dolors Bassa was responsible for having all the polling stations opened. Yet it is a proven fact that most of these were schools and therefore depended not on minister Bassa, but on the Ministry of Education. It was only the civic centres (at the most, less than 0.1% of the polling stations made available for the October 1 2017 Referendum) that depended on her Ministry. Her defence lawyer refuted any accusation that minister Bassa might have made them available on October 1. They did so by presenting an official police list of voting centres attributed to the Department of Labour. According to that list, not one of these centres was made available for the Referendum. So what does the prosecution base its accusation on? If providing centres for the October 1 vote was seen as decisive for the execution of the “seditious” plan, the fact that she did not do so (because she was not the head of the Ministry to which those centres belong), means that, from any point of view, her actions must be seen as irrelevant from a penal point of view.
Another of the reasons highlighted by the Supreme Court was that minister Bassa had “encouraged participation and social mobilization” in the events. Despite declaring that she had not moved from her office at the Ministry during the whole September 20 rally, she did make a tweet with the following message: “We defend democracy. We defend freedom and the mandate of the Catalans”. Where else in current Europe could a call for democracy result in a 12-year sentence for sedition and rebellion?
4 Gonzalo Boye. Lawfare against lawyers
Gonzalo Boye is the leading lawyer in the defence of ex Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and current Catalan president, Quim Torra. Seen as the mastermind behind Germany’s refusal to extradite 2017 Referendum-organizer Puigdemont to Madrid, he has been the constant target of police searches at his home and office in Madrid (see here). The search operations raised doubts in the press because they were seen as a way of hindering, even boycotting, Boye’s defence work in favour of the Catalan president. Logically, as several jurists have pointed out, all the information stored on his computer has now became avaible to the state in its crusade to imprison Puigdemont. Lawfare at its best.
Certainly, Boye is a clear victim of lawfare. Feared as a most competent lawyer by leading Supreme Court judge Marchena, his “elimination” as Puigdemont’s successful defence lawyer is a much sought after goal for the deep State. Its objective is to rake up some sort of involvement of Boye in the Pujol case (Catalan ex-president 1980-2003, accused of corruption). A recent statement made by a protected witness in this case could be part of a strategy of Audiencia Nacional judge José de la Mata, to have Boye tried and subsequently disqualified. The protected witness in the case made a statement to the effect that a New Zealand bank was hosting an account with 102 million euros (179·5 NZ dollars) under the name of “Boye Abogados”. He claims that the account is shared with Jordi Pujol Ferrusola, the son of ex-president Jordi Pujol. Boye on Twitter claimed that this forms part of a smear campaign against him. “The state sewers continue to work”, he said. Boye says he has nothing to do with the Pujols and has asked to make a statement before the judge while threatening to sue the concealed witness involved. Whatever the outcome, this case clearly points to the old trick of using prisoners to give false evidence in exchange for benefits.
You can continue to PART II here