Case

Detingudes23S: CDR activists accused of terrorism

Spanish Civil Guard arresting one of the CDR activists accused of terrorism on September 23, 2019. Credits: Victòria Rovira.
Spanish Civil Guard arresting one of the CDR activists accused of terrorism on September 23, 2019. Credits: Victòria Rovira.
Demonstration in Sabadell supporting imprisoned CDR activists on September 28, 2019. Source: detingudes23s.cat.
Demonstration in Sabadell supporting imprisoned CDR activists on September 28, 2019. Source: detingudes23s.cat.

Description

On September 23rd, 2019, at 5 PM in the night, around 500 Spanish Civil Guard’s officers simultaneously raided homes and buildings in different Catalan cities: Mollet del Vallès, Sabadell, Cerdanyola del Vallès, Santa Perpètua de Mogoda, Sant Pere de Torelló, Sant Fost de Campsentelles and Gurb. Up to 9 pro-independence activists were arrested. Two of them were released with charges on the same day, while the remaining 7 were transferred to “Tres Cantos” Civil Guard command headquarters in Madrid. These are Xavier Buigas, Alexis Codina, Xavier Duch, Eduardo Garzón, Ferran Jolis, Jordi Ros, and Germinal Tomàs.

The Civil Guard used the maximum seventy-two-hour period to interrogate the accused before they appeared in front of the investigating judge. Judge García Castellón accepted the request of National Court Public Prosecutor, Miguel Ángel Carballo, and sent them all to prison without bail on September 26th in Soto del Real, Madrid, charged with terrorism, manufacture and possession of explosives, and rebellion. Allegedly, they are members of the unknown “Equip de Resposta Tàctica” (Tactical Response Team), a “hierarchical organization aiming to establish a Catalan republic by all means, including violence”. 

Taking into account the lack of solid evidence on such claims and the arguments used for their pre-trial detention, part of the population considers them new Catalan political prisoners, this time due to activism.

The Spanish media, shortly after the raids and for several days, filled their content with supposedly secret information from “sources close to the investigation”, such as videos and references to the audio from phone taps which were initially unavailable to the defence lawyers. The media also leaked details of statements allegedly made during interrogations and this information was used during Spanish election campaign. Although no pro-independence terrorist action has taken place in Catalonia in decades and there is still no proof this could have happened, this operation achieved to link the CDR and the pro-independence movement with the idea of “terrorism”. 

Before

The seven persons accused were members of the Committees for the Defence of the Republic, a network of committees that function on a local, regional and national level in Catalonia. Although its initial purpose was to facilitate the Catalan independence referendum, afterwards they started pushing for the establishment of the Catalan Republic calling for non-violent protests and civil disobedience. Being active for over 2 years, the CDR were preparing their response to the Catalan trial’s sentence which was finally published on October 14th, 2019.

This police operation, called Operation Judas, followed the orders of the “Juzgado Central de Instrucción” (Central Investigative Magistrate’s Court) n. 6 from the “Audiencia Nacional”, the National Court which followed the exceptional court created in Francoist Spain, the “Tribunal de Orden Público” (Public Order Court). This centralised court has original jurisdiction over major crimes such as those committed against the Crown and its members, terrorism, forgery of currency and some trade crimes, among others. The National Court‘s misuse of terrorism charges in cases involving left-wing activists had been previously criticized as “systematic”.

According to Civil Guard, the CDR members arrested had been previously investigated for over a year. García Castellón justified their imprisonment based on the “severity of the alleged crimes, their ability to destroy evidence” and the risks of flight and reoffending. The National Court Public Prosecutor’s press release on 23rd September was hedged with conditional and hypothetical sentences, such as “advanced degree of preparation of their terrorist projects for secessionist purposes” and “to abort the project which could have causes irreparable damage due to its advanced stage of preparation”.

David Fernàndez, former deputy of the Parliament of Catalonia in Sabadell on September 28, 2019. Source: detingudes23s.cat.
David Fernàndez, former deputy of the Parliament of Catalonia in Sabadell on September 28, 2019. Source: detingudes23s.cat.

The outcome

Up to this day, there’s a long list of reported procedural irregularities that cannot be fully covered here. Starting from the day of the arrests, the uncle of one of the seven in pre-trial detention claimed that his nephew, Jordi Ros, suffered coercion from Civil Guard officers during his transportation to headquarters in Madrid and that other detainees complained of attempts at interrogation in transit. The family was also unable to secure a meeting between its chosen lawyer from Alerta Solidària, an organization which offers legal and judicial support to arrested or accused members of the nationalist left from the Catalan Countries, and the accused until three days after his detention. 

Alerta Solidària regarded Judas “as a political and electoral operation with a twin purpose”: feeding the election campaign only weeks from new Spanish General elections and attempting to influence the social response to the referendum anniversary and the Catalan trial’s sentence. Some have also argued that the main aim of this detentions is to create fake evidence to extradite Catalan President Carles Puigdemont to Spain allegating terrorist charges.

Lawyers of the accused have also denounced serious violations of the detainees’ right of defence by the Civil Guard, the Public Prosecutor and the National Court, such as the fact that media leaked confidential information to which the lawyers had not access previously. They complained that they had not been informed of the whereabouts of their clients or provided with “contradictory information“, that they were obstructed from seeing their clients for 36 hours, that they “were prevented from doing their job in that they were denied access to two of the detainees”, and not informed of “the charges faced by them“. Alerta Solidària’s spokesperson, Xavier Pellicer, explained on October 21st that one of the accused, Ferran Jolis, could only meet his lawyer after nearly a month of solitary confinement and from that meeting, they feared he may have suffered from psychological abuse and tortures and even been drugged.

During the on-going pre-trial investigation, on November 19th, 2019, the Spain’s National Court reversed the detention orders of four of these pro-independence activists accused of terrorism after deciding that they lacked “essential information” for their defence in the hearing authorizing their detention. They continue to be held in prison while the judge decides whether they should be released. The press and the Spanish politicians that previously asserted that they were fabricating bombs never amended their statements despite being proved that they were false claims.

While leaked information linked “planned actions” with the Catalan presidents Carles Puigdemont and Quim Torra, none of this has been proved yet and some assume this is another police and judicial abuse trying to attack and threaten the pro-independence movement and its leaders.

 

Violated rights

Alerta Solidària reported several right violations from September 23rd, but the case is still recent, and much is yet to be proven or confirmed soon or in a near future.

Right of defence

According to the Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights (OSPDH) at the University of Barcelona, from September 23rd there were different alarming situations concerning the legal defence of the arrested activists, such as:

  • The lawyers appointed by those arrested were “kept in the dark” for 48 hours without any concrete information about the accusations made against their clients.
  • One of the lawyers appointed by two of those arrested were denied access to their clients.
  • The statements by these two detainees were made in somewhat “disturbing circumstances”: one was questioned uninterruptedly for 7 hours, while the other was interrogated for 8 hours during the early hours of September 24th-25th, neither of whom was allowed the statutory minimum period of rest.

These circumstances would reveal a lack of regard to the violation of the rights to defence of the detainees, according to the article 48 from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights on presumption of innocence and right of defence. 

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