Monday, December 11, 2017

Spanish military police plunder Catalan art Museum in Lleida

Spanish authorities have outraged Catalan people once again. Spanish military police used the cover of night to remove artefacts from a museum and spirit them out of the region. The seizure of a series of medieval tombs and fragments of Renaissance altarpieces from a museum in Lleida led to attacks by the police to Catalan protesters who called today’s action a “humiliation” that shows how Spain was using executive powers to “plunder” Catalonia.

Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont, said: “In the middle of the night and using a militarised police, as always, they are taking advantage of a coup d’état to plunder Catalonia with absolute impunity.” Catalonia legally bought the art from the nuns at Santa Maria de Sijena. Aragon launched a challenge and after years of legal battles, a Spanish judge ruled in 2015 that the pieces should be returned. The Spanish ruling party PP, founded by a Francoist Minister, took advantage that the Catalan government was removed in October under Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which imposed direct rule from Madrid. With the Catalan government dissolved, and Catalan institutions run directly from Madrid, Spain’s culture minister signed a judicial order from a judge for the seizure of artworks. The removal of the museum pieces is clearly linked to politics as there are pieces of Sijena all over Europe, in special in Madrid, which will be no seized. Only those bought and conserved by the Catalan Government.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Josep Rull, Catalonia's Minister: They wanted to steal our dignity

Josep Rull has said the Spanish authorities wanted to steal his and his colleagues' dignity by putting them in jail for their roles in illegally declaring independence for the region. The six ministers still face possible charges of sedition and rebellion. Josep Rull was speaking to the BBC's Gavin Lee after his recent release on bail.

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Wave of Spanish attacks in Catalonia

In Barcelona about thirty Spanish militants of the Neo Nazi "National Democracy" party stole Catalan flags in private homes in Canyelles neighborhood. Some of them were clearly drunken. Hours before a group of masked annexationists destroyed the elections propaganda of several parties in favour of a Catalan Republic in Palau doing the Fascist salute. Simultaneously Spanish annexationists beat a man in Salt shouting “Long live Spain” and stole his propaganda of the CUP (left independence party) in Salt. Hours before in Figueres the headquarters of the Catalonia's Republican Left party were painted with Spanish flags as well as swastikas. They also painted the humber "155". The meaning of this is the number of the article of the Spanish post Francoist constitution which let the Madrid government to suspend Catalan self-rule. "155" is used by Spanish far right as well as they use the number "88" for Heil Hitler, being H the 8th letter of the alphabet. Finally the Socialist (PSOE) let the grafitti in the city with the slogan "Kill Puigdemont".

1. Figueres; 2 and 3 Palau; 4. Pineda, 5. L'Hospitalet; 6 and 7. Mr Domingo and Mr. Barraycoa lead the far right group Civil Society or SCC supported by the three annexiationist parties Citizens (which Domingo was MP), PSOE (with a SCC member in its list for the December elections) and PP (some of its members as Mr Ramon Bosch were founders of SCC). 

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Catalan firefighters donate blood in Brussels

Catalan firefighters donated blood in today in Brussels after the big pro Catalan rally in the heart of Europe. It was a show of fraternity: "to show the world that the only blood we want to be spilled is that which we give in a conscious, supportive and voluntary way to help save lives". We hope some Spanish people will think twice before accusing Catalans of being anti-Europe.

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45,000 pro Catalonia flock to Brussels in show of support of Carles Puigdemont

Brussels was in the grip of a major demonstration in favour of Catalan independence on Thursday. Brussels police counted 45,000 demonstrators.

They came by bus, car and coach, bringing their children and dogs, draped in the flag of Catalonia and with their yellow ribbon symbol pinned proudly to their chests.  Some marched with prams others drove their mobility scooters towards the park where Carles Puigdemont was due to speak.
Organisers claimed at least 50,000 Catalans had travelled the 1,200km to Brussels to bring the heart of the city’s European Union quarter to a standstill. Belgian media reported the number to be at least 20,000.
They marched en masse, some in mobility scooters, others in prams and several with dogs wearing Catalan flags, through the Brussels drizzle and past the headquarters of the European Commission.

“The weather is poor here,” said Joseph Teixidor, 42, a banker, “But the people are warm.”
Joseph, 42, his physiotherapist wife Laura Planes, 38, and their daughter Sara, 6, had driven for a total of 12 hours, with an overnight stop in France dividing the seven and five-hour stints behind the Wheel.

Josep said: “We are here because we want the EU to listen to us. Carles Puigdemont is our elected president and he is still our elected president.”
The European Union has greeted the Catalan independence movement’s cries for help with either deafening silence or solid statements of support for the Madrid government. Some protestors held posters of Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission president, with the word “Shame” emblazoned above him.

“We are also here for our political prisoners. That is why we have come,” he added.
The demonstration caused significant disruption in the Belgian and Flemish capital with metros unable to cope with the flow of passengers.
Around 11:30 the demonstrators left the Jubel Park and headed along the Renaissancelaan, the Kortenberglaan, the Stevinstraat, and the Etterbeeksesteenweg before making for the Jean Rey Square. Drivers were urged to avoid the European District. The Reyers Tunnel was closed.
Belgium's governing Flemish party, the N-VA, has sounded its support for the Catalan demonstrators. "We are all Catalans today" lawmaker Peter Luyckx said adding "it is unacceptable that today in Europe there are political prisoners locked up."

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Open Letter by Jordi Cuixart, Catalan Pacifist and Political Prisoner Jailed in Spain

I am a Catalan businessman, the son of labourers. My mother emigrated from Murcia, a Spanish province, and my father was born in Badalona, the third most populated city in Catalonia. We spoke both Catalan and Spanish at home, like the large majority of Catalans with Spanish roots. I am 41 years old, I live in Barcelona. I am married with a seven-month-old son and two other children (stepchildren) whom I love as if they were my own. I am the 10th president of Òmnium Cultural – an organisation set up to promote the Catalan language and spread the region’s culture. It’s a position I hold completely voluntarily. I have been in prison for 50 days now, without a trial, accused of sedition, along with Jordi Sànchez, former president of the Catalan National Assembly.

We are deprived of our freedom for having made use of our right to free expression and demonstration, for the simple act of publicly and democratically defending the right of Catalonia to decide its future as a people at the polls, like Quebec and Scotland did with the mutual agreement of the governments of Canada and the UK.

But we have not committed any crime. The Spanish government has put us in prison for our ideas and opinions, for having organised mass peaceful, festive and family-oriented demonstrations, the images of which have been seen around the world. Today we are in prison not for being dangerous individuals or having committed fraud, theft or murder, but for our political ideas, shared by the 80% of Catalans who are in favour of holding a referendum on self-determination. There were more than 900 victims of Spanish police violence as they exercised their right to vote on 1 October.

The repressive spiral of the Spanish government has extended to the members of the government of the Generalitat. Half went into exile in Belgium and the other half were immediately imprisoned. It was an unprecedented event in modern Europe: half of a democratically chosen government was sent to prison. On Sunday, as we draw closer to the Catalan election on 21 December, the former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras, former cabinet member Joaquim Forn, Jordi Sànchez and myself as leaders of civic groups have been refused bail by Spain’s supreme court.

The judge ruled that he believed there was a risk of criminal reiteration.

Today, Òmnium Cultural has more than 90,000 members and is the main civic-cultural organisation in Catalonia. It was founded in 1961 by five businessmen to defend Catalan language and culture. The Franco dictatorship banned Òmnium from 1963 to 1967. Forty years later, its president has been imprisoned. From its origins until the present day, Òmnium has had a single objective: to guarantee social cohesion in Catalonia.

We keep our firm commitment to share, from a perspective of mutual respect, this cultural, ideological, religious and social diversity. And under the protection of the universal declaration of human rights, defend the right to the self-determination of Catalonia, always through democratic and peaceful means.

European institutions and leaders cannot continue to look the other way, failing to demand that our rights are respected and restored. The founding fathers of the EU built the project on the principles of dialogue, peace and democracy. Those have been clearly violated. The Catalan problem is a European problem. Failing to stand up for these principles could have dire economic, political and social consequences over the short-, medium- and long-term for millions of European citizens.

We proclaim our innocence and our status as prisoners of conscience and insist that the Spanish government free us immediately. We must begin a cooling-off period of dialogue between the parties, in which I promise to dedicate the best efforts of Òmnium Cultural, as we have always done until now.

Catalonia and Spain form part of the EU and everything that occurs from now on will affect the entire union. We are convinced that no one should renounce their responsibility. More than ever the EU must return to its roots: dialogue, peace and democracy. Civic society is calling for this, and it is the duty of political leaders to listen to the petitions of their fellow citizens.

• Jordi Cuixart is the president of
Òmnium Cultural
 Letter Published by The Guardian

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Spain withdraws the European arrest warrant for Catalonia's politicians because they knew they were going to lose anyway

Spain withdrawed today the European arrest warrant for Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont and four of his former ministers, who fled to Belgium. The Catalan Government asked for justice but Spain has tried to avoid a ridiculous condemn of their actions. The five Catalans are being investigated for rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, among other crimes, punishable with decades in prison in Spain. Spanish Supreme Court withdrawed the extradition request ostensibly because they knew they were going to lose anyway. Belgium wasn’t buying their trumped up charges.

The same Spanish tribunal freed far rightist who beat people on October 9th in Valencia and freed the Fascists who attacked a Catalan Cultural Center in 2013, both decisions last weeks. In another incredible decision, the former Catalan vice-president , a Minister and two grassroots peaceful activists were been denied bail ahead of elections this month. The judges argues for a non existence violence as the Catalan movement has been stricly peaceful. 

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

The leader in Catalonia of the Spanish ruling party proposes to kill the Catalan Government already jailed

"We are going to vote to send Puigdemont and Junqueras and company to the trunk of memories, lock it and throw it into the sea so that they do not hurt again as they have done". Clear words and clear message: hate. Xavier Garcia leads the Spanish ruling Popular Party (PP) in the central government. It is ruling Catalonia too thanks to the direct rule imposed on October 27th. PP had 8,5 % of the votes in last September 2015 elections. Garcia also said that "As much as your pants are lowered to get out of prison, we will not forgive you". In a democracy with separation of powers this will be a decision of neutral judges. Most of the Spanish judges and prosecutors are PP linked in Spain. This week the Catalonia's prosecutor dead, he was the brother of the former PP leader in Madrid linked to the corruption case Gurtel. But for Garcia there is no separation of powers. He judges and he does not forgive.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

The Spanish Electoral Board prohibits the concentrations of Grandparents for the Freedom of Catalan Prisoners

The Electoral Board prohibits the concentrations of Grandparents and Grandmas for the Freedom of Catalan Prisoners, in Reus. There are concentrations every day by a group of grandparents, in Reus, to ask for the freedom of the jailed councilors and the leaders of Ōmnium and the Assembly. Pro Spanish parties asked to be prohibited. The Spanish Electoral Council is formed mainly by PP members or nominated by the PP.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Barcelona’s yellow fountains banned by Spanish Electoral Board

Barcelona city council has been ordered to stop bathing public fountains in yellow light after Spain’s electoral authority ruled that the colour suggested support for Catalan pro independence in the run-up to controversial elections in the region on December 21.

The election was called by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy after his government had applied direct rule in Catalonia for defying Spain’s constitution by declaring independence.
Around 20 fountains across Barcelona have been glowing yellow after the council voted on November 15 to include signs of support for 10 jailed pro-independence politicians and activists in the city’s Christmas lighting programme.

When two Catalan activists were jailed in October on suspicion of sedition, independence supporters took to wearing yellow ribbons. This month, eight members of the ousted former Catalan government were also remanded in custody by a Madrid judge who accused them of rebellion and other offences in connection with the organisation of an illegal referendum on October 1.
Representatives from Mr Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP) in Barcelona took the fountain issue before the Electoral Council, a state body that oversees that rules of neutrality are obeyed during campaigns.

On Wednesday it was decided that the choice of lighting was akin to supporting a specific political option, and not a mere show of solidarity as the council led by Left-wing Mayor Ada Colau had claimed.
“It’s ridiculous that there are parties who think they can restore democratic normality by changing the colour of a fountain when there are people in prison who should be out campaigning,” said Laia Ortiz, Barcelona council’s social rights spokeswoman.
But PP councillor Alberto Fernández celebrated the decision, accusing Ms Colau of “not only insulting all Catalans in Barcelona who feel Spanish, but also infringing electoral law and violating the duty to be politically neutral”.
Mayor Colau, who supports a legal referendum on independence but has not declared herself to be in favour of secession from Spain, has also been forced to remove a banner demanding “freedom for political prisoners” from city hall after an earlier ruling by the Electoral Council. This Board is formed mainly by PP members or nominated by the PP.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Two University of Toronto experts debate the region's crisis

Elections in late December will now determine the fate of a restive Catalonia.
After the region's vote for independence last month, the Spanish prime minister imposed direct rule, deposed the regional Catalan government and dismissed its parliament. Since then, the Catalan premier has taken flight to Belgium, and his ministers were recently jailed without bail.
The Spanish government called the December election, even as the two leading pro-independence parties have failed to unite on a single ticket.
U of T News spoke with two university experts – both originally from the area – who sit on polar ends of the debate.
One's a secessionist. Carles Muntaner, a social epidemiologist and professor at U of T's Faculty of Nursing and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, is Catalan. He has been advising the Catalan parliament on health issues for a number of years.
The other supports a unified Spain. Francisco Beltran, is a lecturer in political science at the Faculty of Arts & Science and the Munk School of Global Affairs. He was born in eastern Spain but taught for a time at a Catalan university.

Spain's crackdown  
What's taking place in Catalonia should be of interest to the world, said Muntaner.
“I think that all democracies in the world, and in particular in the EU zone, should be very worried about what is happening in Catalonia. The ministers' jailing is major anti-democratic aggression by the Spanish government against the Catalan people.”
But Beltran says the arrests and judge's rulings are within the bounds of the constitution.
“The rulings are legally flawless; the actions proportional to the alleged crimes, which would certainly prompt the same reaction in any other European country,” Beltran said.
 “It is worth noting that the Catalan parliament passed laws whose goals were to allow for a binding referendum on secession to take place, to abolish the constitution in Catalonia, and to proclaim independence from Spain. They did so disregarding the parliamentary rights of the opposition parties, the parliament’s rules, the opinion of its own legal department and the previous resolutions of the constitutional court, which had ruled such initiatives illegal. In sum, the Catalan government and its parliament attempted to overthrow the constitutional order. That, in Spain and in any other liberal democracies, is called a coup d’état.”

The EU's role

The region’s deposed premier Carles Puigdemont and four of his former cabinet ministers have gone into self-imposed exile in Belgium.
Muntaner says Puigdemont left the region because if he were detained in Spain, “he would not have the chance to a fair trial.” The EU is trying to pressure the Belgian government to turn over the Catalan premier and his ministers to Spain. But Muntaner said he's optimistic the Belgian prime minister will deny the request.
Beltran says it's not up to the Belgian, Spanish or EU leaders to decide. The European arrest warrant mechanism guarantees that the only ones participating in the process are the judges, he said.
“Since mutual recognition is a key principle of judicial co-operation in Europe, it will be difficult for Mr. Puigdemont to avoid being turned over to Spain at some point to face trial there,” Beltran said.

The threat

With the Spanish government deploying more than 10,000 additional paramilitary police, Muntaner said residents like his mother recall a similar scene under fascism.
“On a personal note, my mother, who saw her family broken apart by Franco, and who fought against fascism all her life, now finds herself worrying again about the Spanish military,” he said. “Helicopters are flying menacingly over her house in Barcelona.”
While there has been some violence and verbal abuse directed towards the politicians and individuals who are opposed to secession, Beltran said, “the predicted massive civil resistance ... has not materialized, as Catalans go about their daily lives as usual.”
Muntaner points to a demonstration in Barcelona this past weekened in support of freeing Catalan government officials that he says shows the continued support for independence.

Next steps

This past weekend – a day after the Barcelona protest by secessionists – Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy visited Barcelona, his first visit to the region since imposing direct rule. He urged Spanish nationalists to mobilize Catalans to vote next month and return the region to “normality.”
The Catalan push for independence, the sixth such attempt since the 1600s, has divided both Spain and the Catalonia region itself. The Catalan premier's party has failed to agree on a united ticket with another secessionist party, making it difficult for the pro-independence camp.
Muntaner said the elections are illegal, but he predicts another victory for independence.
The latest polls have shown a rise in support for independence, but secessionist parties could lose if nationalists turn out in large numbers.
“After the enforcement of Article 155 [Spain's emergency powers] and the actions by the judges, even if the pro-secession parties obtain a majority in the parliament, they will not be able now to overstep the limits set by the constitution. That means we are not likely to see any political push for secession in the near future,” Beltran said.
November 15, 2017

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How the Catalan crisis helps Spain's far-right

s the Catalan independence crisis enters its fourth month in December, the intended outcome of an independent Catalonia remains elusive.
But the push for independence has had an unintended consequence; it has invigorated Spain's far-right movements unlike any event since the country's transition to democracy in the 1970s, according to Jordi Borras, a Catalan photojournalist and author who monitors the Spanish far-right.
In the years before the crisis, the far-right's impact has been negligible both on the Spanish streets and in parliament, even as similar movements flourished in France, the Netherlands, Austria, Hungary and elsewhere, Cas Mudde, a professor and scholar at the University of Georgia who specialises in European far-right politics, told Al Jazeera.
Scholars say it is a combination of the mainstream conservative ruling People's Party "capturing the nationalist vote" and "regionalist division" between Spain's minority regions that has put the far-right in the spotlight, Mudde commented.
"Their importance is overplayed in the media. They are much more visible than relevant," Mudde said.
But the political turmoil that has resulted from Catalonia's declaration of independence is bringing these groups, of which there are dozens, together. Borras told Al Jazeera that things have "changed quickly" in Spain, perhaps faster than many observers can track.
Borras explained that the Spanish far-right was previously a "constellation" of ultra-nationalist groups. Some are Neo-Nazis, some are "Falangists" or the remnants of the foremost paramilitary group under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain as a right-wing conservative, Catholic nation from 1939 until 1975. Others exist in their own groups.
Though these groups have a history of in-fighting, Catalan independence has given the far-right a reason to unite, Borras said.

Increased attacks

Catalonia's police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra, finished investigating four incidents of politically-motivated violence, spanning from September 22 to October 27, according to a statement delivered to Al Jazeera.
All of these attacks are believed to have been committed by the far-right.
The perpetrators of one attack, which took place on October 8, were identified by photographs wherein the suspects were giving "Hitler salutes". The Mossos' statement says these attackers were "Spanish nationalists".
After Catalonia held its disputed independence referendum on October 1, Spanish courts declared the vote illegal and ordered the national police and the Civil Guard, a military unit tasked with domestic policing, to stop the referendum while "respecting co-existence".
Spanish law enforcement was filmed executing a violent crackdown on voters that rights groups called "excessive". The violence bolstered Catalonia's resolve for independence.
After a month of political back-and-forth where Catalan President Carles Puigdemont called for dialogue and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of the centre-right People's Party reneged the offer, the Catalan parliament voted for independence On October 27.
Spain responded by enacting Article 155, a never-before-used provision of the constitution that allows the central government to dismiss the Catalan government and directly administer the breakaway region.
Puigdemont and four of his former ministers fled to Belgium, while nearly a dozen pro-independence lawmakers and organisers, including former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras, were imprisoned on charges of rebellion and sedition.
While far-right violence is on the rise, the attacks are encouraging a response from the activist community in Catalonia, Borras noted.
It was visible at one protest on the evening of Monday, October 30. Roughly 500 anti-fascist protesters dressed in black with covered faces stood directly across from a smaller group of far-right activists.
Unlike recent protests in Barcelona, the Antifa group did not take to the streets for the sake of nationalism, but for safety.
Holding flags of workers' syndicates, a trademark of the anarchist, anti-fascists forces that fought in Spain's Civil War, the protesters made it clear to both the police and far-right protesters that these attacks would not go unanswered.
Chanting "the streets will always be ours," a slogan popular with pro-independence demonstrators, they ran past police barricades to confront members of the "Last Bastion," an ultra-nationalist group active in Catalonia.
A chase over several blocks ended with the Catalan police breaking up an altercation between Last Bastion members and an anti-fascist protester.
The Mossos' statement concluded by saying a further eight cases of political violence were being investigated.

'Identitarian' movement

"The Catalan situation makes it so that we are more organised [to prevent] Catalan independence from being achieved," a spokesperson of Spain's Generation Identity (GI), a movement which doesn't consider itself to be a right-wing movement, but a "movement of identity" that respects "the Christian history of Europe", told Al Jazeera in an email.
Spain's GI was founded in Barcelona in 2016. It started as a small group of older people, the spokesperson, who did not give their name, said. The group is growing, thanks to Catalonia's secessionist bid, and new members are in their late teens early 20s.
Spain's GI said Franco's dictatorial legacy has been an obstacle for the Spanish far-right. Though there is no official number, Franco's government killed an estimated 50,000 to 125,000 from 1939 to 1950.

Franco also attempted to homogenise Spain by outlawing minority languages and public displays of minority cultures.
Catalonia, along with other regions with minority cultures, such as Galicia and the Basque country, were most affected by these policies.
Spain's GI belongs to a network of ethno-nationalist groups that are gaining prominence throughout Europe and the US under the banner of white identity.
These groups wish to preserve the cultural purity of white-majority regions and are sometimes considered Islamophobic.
The first goal of Spain's GI group is "is shining a light on the real problems of massive, uncontrolled immigration" and "the dangers of Islamic invasion", the spokesperson said.
This "massive" immigration is putting a strain on the Spanish economy, the GI spokesperson said. They want "national preference – social security and job placement for Spaniards first," to be Spanish policy.
According to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, Spain was 13th in Europe for refugee acceptance. That year, Spain accepted 14,780 refugees, as compared with Germany's 476,510 or Hungary's 177,135 asylum-seekers.
Borras, the Catalan author and researcher, while it is true they want fewer immigrants, it is not what has united them.
Fear of an independent Catalonia has given the far-right – and mainstream right – a "greater good" for which to fight, he concluded.

Al Jazeera

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Spanish Board prohibits the use of some expressions to the Catalan Broadcasting Corporation

The Spanish Central Electoral Board has prohibited the use of expressions such as "jailed counselors" or "list of the president" or that Carles President is "president" (the Catalan President never loses his tittle) or "government in exile" by the Catalan Broadcasting Corporation (CCMA). It has given the reason to the neo-phalangist party Citizens lead by a former PP (Spanish ruling party) member. The Barcelon'as Central Electoral Board opposed such prohibition but the Spanish nationalist party turned to Madrid. According to the Board, "there is neither such an exile nor a supposed political persecution" but a "law enforcement".

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Friday, November 24, 2017

‘We will win!’ Puigdemont talks Catalan independence on Alex Salmond Show

Catalonia's President Carles Puigdemont says he’s confident the Catalan independence movement will prevail as he joins Alex Salmond, an outspoken proponent of Scottish departure from the UK, on Salmond’s new show set to premiere on RT.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Spanish Court rules that imprisoning Fascist attackers of Catalan office would cause 'irreparable damage'.

In September 2013 Spanish Fascists attacked the Catalan government's office in Madrid during the celebration of the Catalan National Day. They assaulted politicians and used tear gas. The attackers were members of Neo Nazis Alianza Nacional and Democracia Nacional as well as Fascist Phalange Party. One of the rioters is Iñigo Pérez de Herrasti y Urquijo, the brother in law of the 9th Baron of Claret the current Minister of Education, Culture and Sport in the Spanish Government since 26 June 2015. He is also the Spokesperson of the Spanish Government since 4 November 2016. Moreover the attacker is as well the cousin of Pedro Morenés, former Spanish Minister of Defence and today the Ambassador of Spain to the United States of America.

The Spanish Constitutional Court ruled yesterday that imprisoning them would cause 'irreparable damage'. But having Catalan political prisoners is all right. Moreover, a 99 % of the appeals to the Constitucional Court are usually refused. They call it justice...

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Catalan Political Prisoners Families Launch an Association

Catalan Civil Rights Association (ADCC) was presented yesterday. It is founded by the families of the ten Catalan political prisoners as well five politicians exiled in Brussels. They launched a web to take care of the families, the rights of the prisoners and to receive support for their actions as well as expenses.

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Catalan civil servants protest against Spain’s takeover of the government

Catalan civil servants demonstrated yesterday in Barcelona in front of the Catalan suspended Government  against the enforcement of Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution, that is, Madrid’s direct rule of Catalonia. The Assembly to Defend the Catalan Institutions is the entity formed by Catalan government employees to reject the measures that the Spanish government has implemented against Carles Puigdemont’s cabinet and the rest of the Catalan government. One of the first initiatives taken by the assembly was a demonstration in central Barcelona on Tuesday.
During the event, the employees read a manifesto in which they recognize “the authority and legitimacy of the president, his government and the institutions which represent it which come from the Catalan Parliament, democratically elected on September 27, 2015”. In addition, the employees “flatly reject the repressive actions” of the Spanish state against Catalan officials, civil servants and “any people who peacefully demonstrate for their political ideas”. The manifesto also calls on citizens to “defend their government institutions”. Catalan Firefighters also protested in a very visual way.

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Spanish judicial system raises eyebrows in the European Parliament

On November 15, at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, a roundtable meeting was held on human rights violations in the Canary Islands. The litmus test was the case of Vladimir Kokorev, a Spanish citizen, who, until recently, with his wife and son, was preparing to enter a third year of “provisional detention” in a Las Palmas prison with no trial or indict ment.
On September 28, the same issue brought prominent lawyers and experts to the Brussels headquarters of the European Parliament (EP).
Both events were sponsored by MEP Fulvio Martusiello, chairman of the EU-Israel commission and member of the Committee on contraventions and maladministration in relation to money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion.
As a follow-up to the Brussels meeting, Mr Martusiello sent an letter to Spanish supervisory authorities, including the General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General de Poder Judicial), the High Courts of Madrid (Audiencia Nacional de Madrid) and the General Prosecutor Office. He called on Spain to clarify and transfer the case from Las Palmas to Madrid to ensure objectivity.
As the letter went unanswered, a second EP meeting took place, this time in Strasbourg. A more focused appeal was issued in a letter to Mr Emilio Moya Valdes chairing the Las Palmas provincial court; to the Spanish Minister of Justice Rafael Catala Polo; the Spanish Ombudsman Francisco Fernandez Marugan, and to Mr Carlos Lesmes Serrano chairing the General Council of the Judiciary.

This much harsher description of the case carries the signatures of four MEPs: Fulvio Martusciello, Barbara Matera, Aldo Pariciello and Heinz Becker. The latter expresses “bewilderment” “at Spain’s treatment of Kokorev” and calls on Spain to end this “horrifying human rights violation”.
MEPs are especially ignited by the fact that Judge Serrano, finding no evidence of money laundering, is now looking for signs of any other crime, conveniently forgetting that Kokorevs’ extradition to Spain was on charges of laundering for President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea.
While violating the law, this “pivot” has stretched out the Kokorev’s provisional detention, turning it into punishment without charge. Maximum penalty for laundering is six years, whereas the Kokorevs have served two years – in the absence of any trial or evidence of guilt.
It was mostly due to the MEPs’ call and the publicity that the case received in Europe in September-October 2017 that Kokorev’s wife and son were promptly released on the eve of the Brussels press conference. Their condition, however, is far from free as they are confined to the Canaries and the Spanish mainland is out of reach.
Vladimir Kokorev remains in prison with an uncertain future.
Aldo Pariciello, stating the MEPs’ common message, notes:
“I could not believe such an outrage is possible in a modern European country until I went into the details of the Kokorev case.
“Failures of justice and investigation do happen but things occurring in the Canaries cannot be called a failure.
“This is a deliberate breach of basic rights of European citizens to whom European laws guarantee the fastest possible and unbiased trial and a right to a fair verdict.
“In Kokorev’s case, I can see neither a trial nor any prospects for legal proceedings.
“All I see is an elderly senior citizen who has been tortured for two years without his guilt having been established”.
No less harsh are the comments by Fulvio Martusciello :
“As we can see, Spanish law enforcement agencies trample the fundamental provisions of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights:
1) A person can be found guilty only after conviction by a competent court.
2) Legal proceedings are conducted within a reasonable time.
3) A person charged with an offence must be informed of the cause of the accusation to allow him preparing his defence.
“As I know, Mr. Kokorev has not faced any court charges since his arrest in 2015. Which terms of pre-trial investigation are considered reasonable in the Canary islands? Two years? Five years? Ten years?
“This is an absurd situation and it gives grounds to question the existence of any real and motivated charges against him.
“Suppose Kokorev is charged of money laundering. So where is investigation of this crime? If there is none, is it lawful to talk about money laundering?»
In his conclusions, Mr Martusciello called for the establishment of an independent body to investigate human rights violations and judicial abuses in the Canary Islands.
It is essential to determine whether disregard for European values is a Canarian episode or a fundamental flaw of the Spanish justice system.

New Europe

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Puigdemont is 'Moscow Spy Cipollino': Russian Pranksters Troll Spain's Minister

Following her statement of Russia's alleged interference in the Catalonia crisis, Spanish Minister of Defense received a phone call, in which "Latvia's Defense Minister" revealed to her the "true identity" of the former Catalan leader.
Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus trolled Maria Dolores de Cospedal, Spanish Defense Minister, who along with her colleagues claimed that Russia might have influenced the independence referendum in Catalonia via a "disinformation" campaign.

They called the Spanish official on behalf of Latvia's Minister of Defense and told her that many Russian tourists traveling to Barcelona are in fact working for Russian intelligence, while the former head of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont is a Russian spy known under the pseudonym Cipollino.
"We took notice of Spain's Minister of Defense, Maria Dolores de Cospedal, after her claims that the ‘hand of Moscow' was apparent in the referendum in Catalonia; she, in particular referred to suspicious Internet traffic from Russia. We contacted her, Alexey (Alexey Stolyarov, Lexus — one of the pranksters — ed.) introduced himself as the Latvian Defense Minister and promised to hand over secret documents, indicating that the former head of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, is an agent of Russian intelligence named Cipollino," prankster Vladimir Kuznetsov (Vovan) told Sputnik.
For her part, de Cospedal said that she did not doubt it at all, but noted that there was still no evidence of Moscow's interference in the Catalan referendum. The prankers then promised to share with her the relevant data allegedly intercepted by Latvian intelligence.
A video of the prankers' conversation with the minister was released on YouTube.
Cipollino, or Little Onion, is a fictional character from Gianni Rodari's worrk, a children's tale about political oppression.

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Spanish intelligence service admits imam behind Catalonia attacks was an informant

The CNI (National Intelligence Centre), Spain's intelligence agency, "following its protocols" contacted Abdelbaki es Satty, imam of Ripoll, Catalonia considered the "mastermind" of the 17th August terrorist attacks in Catalonia. The communication came in 2014 whilst Es Satty was serving a sentence in Castelló prison for drug trafficking, intelligence service sources have told Europe Press.
Abdelbaki es Satty is considered to have been the "mastermind" behind the terrorist cell under investigation by Spain's National Audience court. He died in an explosion of a house in Alcanar, on the Valencia border, on Wednesday 16th August, hours before the attacks on Barcelona's famous Rambla boulevard and the seafront promenade in Cambrils.
Within days of the attacks, the Mossos d'Esquadra (Catalan police) started investigating the imam's contacts and started reconstructing his past. These investigations led to operation Chacal in which police stopped two radicalised brothers from attacking Ceuta.
Spanish newspaper El País reported on 20th August that the imam met Rachid Aglif, alias the Rabbit, in prison, one of the members of the cell responsible for the 2004 Madrid train bombing.
Es Satty lived in Vilanova i la Geltrú, south of Barcelona, between 2006 and 2008. He was the town's second imam and walked away clean from the police operation in which a good part of the leadership of the religious community ended up behind bars.
The Mossos managed to find his cellmate from Castelló prison, a terrorist charged over the 2004 Madrid attacks, where Es Satty was held between 2010 and 2014. The imam at that time was in charge of organising the prayer times between the Muslim prisoners. Sources say that it was there that CNI made contact with him.
National Audience judge Fernando Andreu says in one of his interlocutory orders that two of those detained in connection to the Catalonia cell indicated that 44-year-old Es Satty was the cell's "mastermind". He died in the explosion in Alcanar, where investigators found various plane tickets to Brussels in his name.
In the house in Alcanar they also found his wallet and ID and a green book with his name on the first page containing a text "Short letter to the soldiers of the Islamic State in the land of the Andalus for the crusades".
According to the judge, the terrorists in Catalonia had stockpiled hundreds of kilograms of material to make explosives to commit "a large-scale terrorist act", frustrated by the explosion of the mixture they were preparing to make TATP.
The judge hasn't opened separating proceedings against the imam. Like the rest of the members of the cell, his life up until his accidental death in the explosion in Alcanar in the house they were using as an explosives factory is being analysed. The operation involves the Mossos d'Esquadra as well as Spain's National Police and Civil Guard.




Criminal history

The imam had another conviction on his record, as well as drug-trafficking. In 2006 he was convicted on two counts of injury and one against the administration of justice based on events in the Basque Country two years earlier.
This was revealed in the sentence dictated in March 2015, which Europa Press has had access to, in which a judge annuls the expulsion of Es Satty agreed by the Subdelegation of the Government of Castelló in relation to his conviction on drug offences. The injury charges do not appear in the expulsion agreement, only in the verdict he received from a Ceuta court in February 2012, confirming the 4 years and 1 month in prison he was sentenced to in 2011 for drug-trafficking.
On the other hand, according to reports in Spanish newspaper El País, the Ripoll imam remained in touch with some of the terrorists arrested after the 2004 train attacks in Madrid.

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