Toni Strubell i Trueta


juliol 06

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 unrefrained 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. Politicians such as Rajoy and Sánchez actually bragged about deploying it while former PP minister Jorge Fernández Diez even boasted of the creation of a “patriotic police” to exert 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 a innocent activists or some poor rappist jailed for his/her lyrics (see https://braveneweurope.com/toni-strubell-nuria-bassa-pablo-hasel-another-rapper-spains-courts-want-jailed) but to report that the Guardia Civil (GC) had trumped up a report criticizing the “socialist” 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. They all 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 hogged its 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 knowlege that ECHR repair and EU rebuke, if occurring at all, will arrive late and marked by mealy-mouthed, middle-of-the-road compensations of no consequence. It all obeys a strategy aimed at preventing political dissent from gaining momentum and at protecting 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 9-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 (GC) 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, object-throwing, attempted occupation of the Department and immobilization 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 head off home. • GC agents alleged that in 25 years of service (including high-risk operations against organized 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 synchronized video tracking to prove GC witnesses were lying about the “violence” deployed by demonstrators. Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sánchez today continue to be in Lledoners prison, almost three years along the line, with preposterous nine-year prison sentences. Amongst many other organizations, 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 8 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 Iosu, 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 9, and finally, Ainara to 2. 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 of 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 Civil Guard 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 https://braveneweurope.com/interview-with-gonzalo-boye-spain-the-eu-cannot-overlook-the-intimidation-of-lawyers-defending-political-opponents-in-spain). 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. 5 Tamara Carrasco. Lawfare against a whistle On April 10 2018, a young woman called Tamara Carrasco (an activist member of the Committee for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) in Viladecans, near Barcelona) was arrested in a spectacular, much publicized GC raid on her home. She was accused of being a “member of a terrorist group”. Her her case was sent on to the special court responsible for cases of terrorisme: the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid. In a search conducted at Tamara Carrasco’s home, the police were only able to find as “proof” one whistle and one mask showing the face of imprisoned activist Jordi Cuixart (a common campaigning item at the time). Tamara Carrasco was taken to the Audiencia Nacional where she was held in isolation for 48 hours. She was later released with the unprecedented measure of being confined to her home town of Viladecans. After over a year deprived of her right to move about freely, and after several Madrid and Barcelona courts refused to take on her case, Tamara Carrasco was informed that she could now move about freely though it was not made clear if she would be tried. For the moment, the prosecutor calls for a seven-month prison sentence. Tamara Carrasco’s case is not so different from that of Madrid’s Dani Gallardo or the famous “CDR seven”. Dani Gallardo is a Madrid-based demonstrator who has been held in jail since October 2019 after participating in a pro-Catalan rally in Madrid. As for the “CDR seven”, these are republican activists who were arrested in September 2019 and were viciously accused of “terrorism” and “holding explosives” in the Madrid press. However, these accusations were later known to have been based on fake GC reports. After months in prison, they were allowed out in dribs and drabs. From the political arena, several statements were made to the effect that CDR activity should not be labelled as terrorism, it being claimed that to treat the CDR 7 as terrorists "trivializes terrorism and offends its victims”. Can clearer cases of intimidation be found than Tamara Carrasco and the CDR 7’s? 6 Martxelo Otamendi. Lawfare against journalists Otamendi was the editor in 2003 of the Basque-language newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria founded in 1990. After ETA broke a truce in January 2000, the Spanish government began to apply a policy that came to be known as the “everything is ETA” syndrome. No holds were barred to illegalize enterprises, parties, associations or individuals found to have anything whatever to do with the Basque left-wing independentist movement. In February 2003, Euskaldunon Egunkaria was made to close down by Audiencia Nacional judge Juan del Olmo. All its assets suffered State confiscation and 10 members of the paper’s editorial board, including Martxelo Otamendi, were arrested and accused of forming part of a terrorist organization. The newspaper itself was accused of forming part of an entrepreneurial group controlled by ETA. It took seven years for the Audicencia Nacional to absolve Otamendi as no proof whatsoever was found of any kind or relationship between ETA and Euskaldunon Egunkaria, a prestigious newspaper read by Basque-speakers across the board. Yet the harm was done. The newspaper had been outlawed, crippling economic losses suffered and Martxelo Otamendi and others of his staff had been tortured and silenced as journalists. The judge’s sentence said that no proof had been found that Euskaldunon Egunkaria had been funded by ETA and saw no defence of ETA’s ideas in the newspaper’s editorials. Yet no compensation was offered when Otamendi accused the State in 2008. Finally, in 2012 – nine years after the closure of the newspaper – the European Court of Human Rights condemned Spain to paying 24.000 euros to Martxelo Otamendi for not having adequately investigated the reports he made of torture. According to the ECHR, the Audiencia Nacional had remained "passive" when allegations of torture were made. One may only conclude that lawfare makes it extremely easy to close down a newspaper in today’s EU. 7 Laura Borràs. Lawfare to eliminate rival candidates Since the Catalan independence movement got under way, about 10 years ago, the use of lawfare to smear Catalan candidates’ reputations or even prevent them from standing at elections, has become notorious. It was the case of Artur Mas at the 2012 Catalan Parliament elections and Xavier Trias, when he was the candidate to continue as Barcelona’s mayor. They were accused in GC reports of having illegal bank accounts in Switzerland and/or Andorra. All of this came to nothing, being quite unfounded, But the basic objective was assured: their election performance was seriously damaged. Indeed, Trias lost his post as mayor of Barcelona. Yet no GC agent was prosecuted for concocting these trumpted up reports. Today it is Laura Borràs, a popular indy candidate, who has suffered a similar smear campaign. She was accused of favouring a designer offering services to the literary institution she ran before launching out on a political carrer. An initial report calling for her case to be investigated led two senior inspection bodies to study the case. Both exonerated her of having committed any form of illegal activity. But opting as she does to head the election ticket for Puigdemont’s party, Junts per Catalunya, she has now come under the fire of Spain’s Supreme Court, the same one that sentenced the Catalan government and two activists to jail. The prosecutor is now calling for a monstrous 15-year prison sentence for Laura Borràs for practices nearly all administrations are known to practice. Will she get a fair trial? Or will it be a lawfare trial? 8 Lynching honest teachers. Lawfare against education At the October 1 Referendum, 1060 citizens were reported injured in Dantesque scenes that shocked TV viewers around the world. In the following days, teachers in some schools held class debates to discuss what had occurred that day. They did so as a class activity to contribute to students’ social awareness, in no case to create hate nor seek “political indoctrination” as Catalan schools were maliciously accused of in Madrid press. In the following days, eight teachers from three schools in the Pyrenean city of La Seu d'Urgell were taken to court and accused of committing a “hate crime”. At the origin of this accusation was a GC report in which it was claimed that students at these schools had been discriminated against and lynched – both by fellow students and staff - for being the sons and daughters of GC. The report even spoke of an aggression against one GC’s son. The same happened to nine teachers at the Palau Institute at Sant Andreu de la Barca (the location of the GC headquarters near Barcelona). Yet no proof of any such “lynching” was to be found anywhere. The only lynching recorded was that suffered by the nine teachers reported. They too were hauled before the courts and portrayed as monsters in the unionist press. Not only were their police photograghs displayed in the press but headlines such as “The 9 infamous Catalan teachers” were to proliferate. They too got the roughest of treatment. Most had to leave their jobs and even abandon the area, suffering constant media lynching for months after. As in all cases described above, the whole operation was built around the protection offered by the Spanish judiciary to a shameful use of lawfare. That is Spain’s deep State formula for eliminating opponents by portraying and treating them as enemies while the EU yawns and turns a blind eye whenever it has the chance to do so.

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