Josep Maria Jové and Lluís Salvadó
Catalan officials arrested on 20 September 2017 by Spanish police in raids over referendum while direct rule on Catalonia from Madrid was being implemented.
Police raided several buildings including economy, foreign affairs, telecoms, social affairs, and presidency. They were searching for computer equipment and any documentation linked to the planned vote on 1st October.
On September 20 2017 Spanish police raided Catalan government ministries and detained 12 officials, among them Lluís Salvadó (the Treasury secretary) and Josep Maria Jové (general secretary of the Finance Department). This operation targeted 40 ministries and offices, as well as three private companies, and was a dramatic escalation of Spain’s attempt to stop the self-determination vote that was due to be held on 1st October.
Police raided several buildings including Economy, Foreign Affairs, Telecommunications, Social Affairs and Presidency. They searched for computer equipment and any documentation linked to the vote planned for October 1. Previous raids had targeted sites suspected of containing electoral material. In reaction to these raids, thousands of Catalans took to the streets in protest and gathered outside the Economy ministry as the police operation was taking place. Catalan leaders called for peaceful resistance.
Mr. Salvadó and Mr. Jové, together with 12 other officials, were arrested and detained for two and a half days. They have been investigated by the Spanish Police for several months and are now awaiting their trial.
The origin of the investigation is a claim brought by VOX (an extreme right wing political party). The claim was admitted on February 2017 by First instance Court No. 13 of Barcelona, against the ex-judge, Santi Vidal, the Treasury secretary Lluís Salvadó and jurist Carles Viver Pi-Sunyer. They had already been secretly investigated for several months.
On 22nd September 2017, Mr. Jové and Mr. Salvadó were released after refusing to testify. Nevertheless, they were charged with misuse of public funds, obstructing the course of justice and revelation of secrets and sedition, which come with prison sentences of up to 15 years.
In April 2018, the magistrate of Court No. 13 of Barcelona asked the Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena to include Mr. Jové and Mr. Salvadó in the global cause for rebellion against various members of the Catalan Government including its President, Carles Puigdemont. However, on May 8 he refused to do so and referred the case to Spain’s High Court in Catalonia (TSJC) This is a key step before putting them on trial, as they are granted special rights as members of the Catalan Parliament. The case has included recently the current Catalan vice president Pere Aragonès, also an MP for the pro-independence Esquerra (ERC) party. The TSJC has to make a decision on the matter.
The defence counsel has called for the case to be closed, arguing that “the investigation ordered by Barcelona Court number 13 has developed into a general political cause against the Catalan independence movement which is an illegal situation within the rule of law”. It started with a report presented by the extreme right-wing party VOX, in a lecture given by the senator and former judge Mr. Santiago Vidal. It became the judicial source for the imprisonment of the two Catalan independence movement leaders, Mr. Jordi Sànchez and Mr. Jordi Cuixart and it has moved to prosecute around another 50 people, most of whom work as public officials within the Catalan government.
Mr. Salvadó and Mr. Jové are awaiting trial and suffering a prosecution that may last for a long period of time.
The judicial process has taken place with systematic irregularities from the outset. According to the defence counsels of the arrested Catalan officials, there aren’t enough guarantees of a fair trial. These are the main irregularities reported by the defence:
1. The judge in charge of the Barcelona Court No. 13 investigated Mr. Jové and Mr. Salvadó until July 2018, although he had no powers to do so. They were members of the Catalan Parliament as from December 20, 2017 and they should therefore enjoy parliamentary privileges and the right to a special court.
2. The arrested officials presented a petition for habeas corpus, and the lawyers defending them recused the judge. The petition was turned down. The defence lawyers stated that the judge who had to decide was the one on duty at that moment, but instead it was the very judge that initiated the police operation who decided on it.
3. The investigation has been kept secret from the start. Two months ago, the defence presented an appeal against secrecy in the summary proceedings, but when the detentions took place the appeal had not yet been resolved. There is a lack of information and it hasn’t been made public, which is the exact issue being investigated.
4. The defence lawyers had serious problems to be able to assist their twelve clients. The Spanish police didn’t communicate the arrests to the Barcelona Bar Association, so the lawyers were unable to assist their clients until hours later. The Spanish police had access to some of the personal devices of the arrested officials, such as mobile phones, while their lawyers were not present.
5. The Catalan Council of Lawyers denounced irregular searches in several lawyers’ offices, infringing the right to professional secret and the protection of citizens’ personal data.
6. Many of those prosecuted had their telephone tapped and were being monitored by the Spanish police without sufficient grounds, including people who were not even part of the investigation.
7. The police search in the homes and offices of the people being prosecuted have been the result of the request to the court by VOX (an extreme right-wing political party). The same happened with the different telephone tappings, including private conversations not even related to the cause under investigation. Some of these telephone tappings were leaked to the media and have been published out of context, or even manipulated. According to the Spanish Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 12), no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.