Catalonia wants out; Spain says no

Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 6 Nov, 2019 06:26 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Spain's far-right Vox surges in wake of Catalan independence protests
Catalan question again dominates campaign with fears over rise of far-right Vox party

Barcelona no longer goes to bed to the smell of smoke, the whoop of sirens or the clattering of helicopters.

Three weeks after the violent unrest that greeted the Spanish supreme court’s decision to jail nine Catalan separatist leaders for sedition over their roles in the failed push for regional independence two years ago, the city is slowly returning to something resembling normality.

While sporadic roadblocks set up by protesters have become just another irritation of urban life and rubbish piles up on the streets after most of bins in central Barcelona were burned on the barricades, the true impact may be more accurately measured on Sunday, when Spain holds its fourth general election in as many years. The Catalan question is once again dominating the political debate and could help the far-right Vox party surge into third place, its best-ever result.

The socialist government of the caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has sought to cool tensions while also criticising the pro-independence Catalan regional government for taking too long to condemn the violence and for continuing to peddle what it terms secessionist fantasies.

Barcelona no longer goes to bed to the smell of smoke, the whoop of sirens or the clattering of helicopters.

Three weeks after the violent unrest that greeted the Spanish supreme court’s decision to jail nine Catalan separatist leaders for sedition over their roles in the failed push for regional independence two years ago, the city is slowly returning to something resembling normality.

While sporadic roadblocks set up by protesters have become just another irritation of urban life and rubbish piles up on the streets after most of bins in central Barcelona were burned on the barricades, the true impact may be more accurately measured on Sunday, when Spain holds its fourth general election in as many years. The Catalan question is once again dominating the political debate and could help the far-right Vox party surge into third place, its best-ever result.

The socialist government of the caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has sought to cool tensions while also criticising the pro-independence Catalan regional government for taking too long to condemn the violence and for continuing to peddle what it terms secessionist fantasies.

Polls suggest that Sánchez’s Socialists will win the most votes on Sunday but again fall short of a majority as it did in April’s election.

The PP appears to be bouncing back from its disastrous showing last time when it lost more than half its seats, but things look bleak for Citizens, which has lurched further to the right, and which refused to help Sánchez form a government.

Its loss seems to be Vox’s gain: with support for Citizens plummeting, the far-right grouping could move past it and the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos to become the third biggest force in Spanish politics.

Three years after Podemos was widely – but incorrectly – predicted to leapfrog the Socialists to become Spain’s leading leftwing party, the talk is once again of a sorpasso (overtaking).

“It’s clear that everything that’s happened in Catalonia in reaction to the sentence has completely captured the public agenda,” said Guillem Vidal, a postdoctoral researcher at the Berlin Social Science Centre.

“What it’s done, deep down, is polarise the whole national political agenda. If you look at the polls, the consequences of this level of polarisation have been the reinforcing of the parties most deeply involved in the issue.”

Vidal said both Vox and the Catalan Republican Left, the region’s more moderate pro-independence party, were likely to benefit from the current climate. He said Abascal’s participation in the party’s first debate on public television had helped normalise Vox’s narrative and allowed it to set out its stall.

Vidal added that Abascal seemed to be aiming to emulate the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen by adopting “a more chauvinist, European far-right attitude when it comes to economic protectionism”.

Earlier on Monday, Rocío Monasterio, Vox’s leader in the Madrid region, had headed to a centre for unaccompanied foreign minors in Seville to argue that such young people made the streets unsafe and posed “a serious problem in our neighbourhoods”.

She was met with cries of “Fascists out!”. The following day, her husband, Vox spokesman Iván Espinosa de los Monteros, suggested “foreigners are three times more likely to commit rape … than Spaniards”.

He was speaking after Abascal falsely claimed in the debate that 70% of gang rapes in Spain were committed by foreigners. Figures from Spain’s National Institute for Statistics show that 312 Spaniards and 96 foreigners were convicted of rape last year.

Berta Barbet, a political scientist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, said that while the tumult in Catalonia had undoubtedly favoured Vox, a sorpasso depended on rather more than a single party surging forward.

“It’s not just about Vox rising – it’s about Citizens falling,” she said.

“I think Citizens’ decline has less to do with Catalonia and more to do with its ambivalent strategy over whether it’s a centrist party or not, and with its stance on negotiating with Sánchez.”

Barbet added: “It needed to decide whether it was a centrist party that could make a deal with Sánchez or whether it wanted to be to the right of everyone.”
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 7 Nov, 2019 12:19 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
As prime minister, I refuse to let Catalan separatists undermine Spanish democracy
Pedro Sánchez
My government will act with restraint and moderation to defend peaceful coexistence in our country

• Pedro Sánchez is prime minister of Spain

Europe, above all, is about freedom, peace and progress. We must move forward with these values and make it the leading model of integration and social justice, one that protects its citizens. The Europe that we aspire to, the Europe that we need, the Europe we are building is based on democratic stability within our states and cannot accept the unilateral breach of its integrity. The Europe we admire has been built on the principle of overlapping identities and equality for all citizens, and on the rejection of nationalist ideologies and extremism.

For this reason, the challenge of separatism in Catalonia, devised against and outside Spain’s constitutional framework – and silencing the majority of Catalans who are against independence – is a challenge for Europe and Europeans. Preserving these values in Catalonia today means protecting the open and democratic Europe for which we stand.

In 1978, Spain adopted a fully democratic constitution, thus escaping the long and dark shadow of dictatorship. That historic document was endorsed by almost 88% of voters in a referendum. In Catalonia, support and turnout were even higher: 90.5% of Catalans backed the new constitution. Today, the Democracy Index, published by the Economist, rates Spain as one of the world’s 20 full democracies.

Contemporary Spain is Europe’s second most decentralised country, and Catalonia enjoys some of the highest levels of regional self-governance on the continent, with wide-ranging devolved powers over crucial sectors such as media and public communication, health, education and prisons.

Today, however, Catalonia is associated with a profound crisis, caused by the unilateral breach of Spain’s constitutional order brought about by the region’s separatist leaders in the autumn of 2017. Catalonia’s leaders reneged on all the resolutions set out by the constitutional court, passed unconstitutional “disconnection” laws from the Spanish state, held an illegal referendum and declared a purported Catalan republic.

No state would ever allow the unilateral secession of a territory that forms part of its constitutional order. And no democrat should support the path taken by the separatist leaders, who won less than 48% of the votes cast in regional elections.

My government has promoted the expansion of rights and liberties and would never agree to even the smallest restriction of freedom of expression. The president of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Catalonia’s regional government), Quim Torra, is a radical separatist, but he is not prevented from expressing his views freely, despite the pain and damage they cause to peaceful coexistence in Catalonia. In Spain, everyone may express their opinions as they wish, provided that they do not promote and encourage criminal acts.

The supreme court recently ruled against nine separatist leaders charged for the illegal acts they carried out in the autumn of 2017. The court acted with the greatest transparency: the entire proceedings were televised live.

I fully respect those Catalan citizens who have peacefully exercised fundamental rights to protest and to strike against the ruling. But the organised and intentional acts of violence that have occurred across Catalonia in recent weeks are something else altogether and in no way represent the region’s tolerance and welcoming spirit.

The illegal effort to bring about Catalonia’s independence has followed a roadmap that is all too familiar in today’s Europe. It has used a web of lies, spun by fake news and viral messaging, to divide societies by exploiting the rhetoric of reaction to encourage polarisation and confrontation.

Recently, the president of the main pro-separatist association, Elisenda Paluzie, stated that images of violent clashes between protesters and police officers had “positive and negative effects” as they “lent visibility to the conflict” and “keep us in the international press”. But if we have learned anything from Europe’s painful and bloody history, it is that no political ambition can ever justify resorting to violence, much less the normalisation of violence as a political tool.

My government has responded with speed and proportion to restore peace and stability to Catalonia’s citizens, a majority of whom reject the current unstable impasse.

I call on the president of the Generalitat to condemn the violence fully and clearly, and to act as president of all Catalans, not only those who share his political beliefs.

I will not allow another extreme nationalist outbreak to undermine the success of Spanish democracy. In the discussion about the future of Catalonia, only the healing and coexistence of the Catalan people and society, not independence, is on the agenda. This is our main challenge: to ensure that all understand and accept that a unilateral path toward independence constitutes a direct affront to fundamental democratic principles.

At this moment, restraint and moderation are imperative. We will act with all the firmness needed to defend peaceful coexistence, all the while recognising that we have an opportunity to start a new chapter.

I know that there are open wounds, pain and frustration. But, despite this, there is an opportunity for dialogue and hope, recognising what we have achieved together and thinking about what we can do, together. I will never turn away from dialogue, but for this to happen the separatist leaders must abide by the constitution and respect the rule of law.

My government has positioned Spain at the forefront of the project of European integration and the fight against our greatest global challenges. These objectives transcend a nationalist vision, and we need Catalonia and Catalan society to help achieve them.

• Pedro Sánchez is prime minister of Spain. This article was originally published by Project Syndicate

0 Replies
Reply Thu 7 Nov, 2019 03:34 pm
Pedro Sánchez wrote:
My government has promoted the expansion of rights and liberties and would never agree to even the smallest restriction of freedom of expression.

Wasn't tax distribution the basis of the separatists' call for independence? What has Sánchez done on that issue?
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 11 Nov, 2019 05:52 am
The snap election has worsened the Spanish political deadlock, weakening the Socialists and strengthening the right, while in Catalonia, pro-independence parties won one seat more compared to Aprils results
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 11 Nov, 2019 07:07 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Catalan voters buck the trend in Spanish election

Winners in Catalonia and Spain
With the Socialists (PSOE) top in Spain as a whole with 120 seats, and Esquerra Republicana (ERC) winning in Catalonia with 13 seats, left-wing parties were victorious in both places, yet PSOE resists self-determination while ERC wants a referendum.

Independence parties
Self-determination was naturally an issue over which Catalan voters differed from those in Spain. Pro-independence parties won a total of 23 seats in Congress - an all-time high - while Spain's unionist parties gained from Spaniards' concerns about the Catalan conflict.

Rise of the far-right
Vox's upsurge saw the far-right party more than double its seats to 52. Yet, Vox's championing of Spanish unity and traditional values did not sit well with voters in Catalonia, where the unionist party won just two seats, or 6% compared to a 15% share in Spain.

Conservative PP
It was a similar story for the unionist People's Party (PP), which recovered from its losses in the April election, recovering 22 seats to go up to 88, raising its share of the vote from 16% to 20%. An opponent of self-determination, in Catalonia PP got two Congress seats.

Cs goes into freefall
Yet, another unionist party, Ciudadanos (Cs), went into freefall, losing 47 seats to drop to 10, while its seats in Catalonia fell from 5 to 2, in both places its share now stands at about 6%. For the moment, Cs remains the largest party in the Catalan parliament with 36 seats.

Left-right split
November 10 was also about the left-right split in Spain, with neither bloc in Congress getting a clear majority. Yet, among Catalan parties voters came out in favor of the left-wing parties, which between them got well over 60% of the vote, or 34 seats out of 48.

After four general elections in four years, the level of voter fatigue also separated Spain as a whole from Catalonia, where turnout remained high at 72%, despite a two-point drop, while for Spain, turnout dropped from 71.7% in April to 69.8% on Sunday.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 14 Nov, 2019 12:39 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Ex-Catalan minister vows to fight 'politically motivated' extradition
Clara Ponsatí, released on bail in Edinburgh after handing herself in to police, faces a sedition charge

The former Catalan government minister Clara Ponsati has vowed to fight her “politically motivated” extradition from Scotland, following her release on bail by Edinburgh sheriff court after handing herself in to the police.

The 62-year-old St Andrews University professor, who is wanted in Spain over her role in the Catalan independence movement, insisted on Thursday she should not be extradited to face a “show trial”, where she believes a guilty verdict would be inevitable.

The highly regarded head of the university’s economics school returned to Scotland via Belgium when she fled from Spain along with the former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and three other members of his team after their government was forced from office in November 2017.

Ponsatí, who denies all wrongdoing, faces a single charge of sedition, relating to her part in organising the independence referendum on 1 October 2017, which the Spanish state deemed illegal, while she was the education minister in the Puigdemont administration.

Her lawyer, Aamer Anwar, claimed the European arrest warrant served by the Spanish government was “full of contradictions and mistakes”, while offering no substantial evidence of the alleged crime.

Anwar, adding that the Spanish authorities had “repeatedly abused” the European arrest warrant’s powers, said: “We are instructed by Clara to robustly defend her from what she describes as ‘judicially motivated revenge’. Clara wishes to put on notice all those Spanish politicians who have abused the rule of law that they will also be exposed to scrutiny in her defence. Clara trusts that her fate now lies in the hands of the Scottish justice system which she believes to be impartial, robust and independent.”

Spain abandoned a previous attempt to extradite Ponsatí from Scotland in July 2018.

Since then, the Spanish supreme court has jailed nine Catalan separatist leaders for more than 100 years between them, leading to violent clashes between police and protesters in Barcelona last month.

Ponsatí’s next court appearance has been scheduled for 12 December in Edinburgh and a full hearing is likely to take place in the spring of 2020.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 17 Dec, 2019 12:17 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Russian interview with Carles Puigdemont airs on hacked Spanish TV
Public-run +24 channel showed RT feature with the exiled Catalan separatist leader

Spain’s public broadcaster has inadvertently carried an interview with the exiled Catalan separatist leader Carles Puigdemont after hackers hijacked its online news channel and substituted its content for that of Russia’s state-backed RT network.

The hack, which happened last Thursday, meant Spanish TV’s +24 channel showed RT’s interview between Puigdemont and the former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa.

In the interview – one of RT’s series Conversation with Correa – Puigdemont again insisted “there’s no solution to the Catalan problem that doesn’t involve independence”.

RT’s boss, Margarita Simonyan, appeared to revel in the embarrassment the incident had caused but said the network was not responsible.

“Hackers got into the Spanish +24 channel and switched their transmission for ours,” she said.

“We ended up having an interview with Puigdemont, the main Catalan independence leader. Our transmission lasted the whole evening. We don’t know who did it but it was beautiful.”

According to the Asturian paper El Comercio, which was the first to report the incident, sources at Televisión Española confirmed a hack had taken place.

The broadcaster was contacted for comment and said it was looking into the matter.

Two years ago, the Spanish government said that many of the false claims on social media about the political crisis in Catalonia appeared to have come from Russian territory.

“It is important that we know that there are certain entities, which may be public or private, that try to interfere in national politics, that try to affect and create unstable situations in Europe,” Spain’s then-defence minister, María Dolores de Cospedal, told a meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers at the time.

Puigdemont, who was sacked by the Spanish government two years ago after organising the illegal Catalan independence referendum, fled to Belgium to avoid arrest.

Spain’s supreme court reissued the international arrest warrant for the former regional president after nine Catalan pro-independence leaders were jailed in October over their roles in the failed attempt to secede from Spain.

On Monday, a court in Brussels announced that Puigdemont’s next extradition hearing would take place on 3 February, once the European court of justice has ruled on whether he should be granted immunity after being elected as an MEP.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 19 Dec, 2019 07:24 am
@Walter Hinteler,
LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - A Catalan leader jailed for his role in an independence referendum deemed illegal by Spain was entitled to immunity as member of the European Parliament despite not having being able to take up his seat, the EU’s highest court ruled on Thursday.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling in respect of Oriol Junqueras marks a likely boost for the Catalan separatist movement and potentially puts judicial authorities in Brussels and Madrid at loggerheads.

Court of Justice of the European Union press release:
A person elected to the European Parliament acquires the status of Member of that institution at the time of the official declaration of the results and enjoys, from that time, the immunities attached to that status
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 2 Jan, 2020 09:50 am
@Walter Hinteler,
A Brussels examining magistrate has decided to suspend the execution of European arrest warrants issued by Spain against Carles Puigdemont and Toni Comin, the Catalan separatist reported on Twitter on Thursday. His lawyer, Simon Bekaert, confirmed the information.

RTBF: Le juge d'instruction bruxellois suspend la procédure d'extradition contre Puigdemont et Comin

DW: Belgium halts extradition of Catalan separatist Puigdemont to Spain
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 2 Jan, 2020 11:57 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Catalonia separatists set to end Spain's political deadlock
A Catalan separatist party will abstain from an upcoming vote to confirm Socialist Pedro Sanchez as prime minister. The ERC announced the move after agreeing to talks over "the future of Catalonia" with the Socialists

The pro-independence Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) said Thursday it would abstain from the Spanish parliament's confidence vote, allowing Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez to stay on as prime minister.

Spain went without a proper government for much of 2019 after two inconclusive elections. Sanchez needed the ERC's 13 lawmakers to at least refrain from the vote, slated to take place between January 4 and 7, in order to secure his confirmation in office.

The ERC said it made its decision after the Socialists agreed to an open dialogue over secession for Catalonia. Top ERC official Pere Aragones said the two sides would hold talks to "unblock the political conflict over the future of Catalonia and establish the basis for its resolution."

"It is a difficult, complex path. We think it is worth taking," Aragones, who serves as Catalonia's vice president, told reporters.

Fragile coalition government
Sanchez and the Socialists won 155 seats in the most recent elections in November, well short of a majority in Spain's 350-seat parliament. The Socialists agreed to form a coalition with the left-wing Unidas Podemos party, but still required the support of several smaller regional parties, including the ERC.

Spanish laws allow minority governments to be formed as long as they receive more votes in favor than against in the country's lower house of parliament. The ERC's abstention effectively facilitates just such a scenario.

The Socialist party confirmed it had reached an agreement with ERC on discussing secession for Catalonia, but did not mention the party abstaining from the upcoming investiture vote.

Sanchez and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said Monday that if approved, their coalition government would increase social spending and introduce higher taxes for banks and wealthy Spaniards.

Spanish politics in turmoil
Spain's constitution bars regions from seceding, and the recent push for independence in Catalonia has fueled one of the worst political crises in decades for the eurozone's fourth-largest economy.

The wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia has seen significant, sometimes violent protests since Spain's Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan leaders to lengthy prison terms over their roles in a banned 2017 independence referendum and subsequent independence declaration.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 4 Jan, 2020 01:52 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Spain’s electoral board on Friday disqualified the regional president of Catalonia from holding a seat in the regional parliament and ruled that another leading separatist imprisoned for sedition is ineligible to take a European Parliament seat he was elected to last year.

Both decisions could have broad repercussions in Catalonia and disrupt plans for a new government in Spain led by Socialist Pedro Sanchez.

They will further inflame Catalan separatists.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2020 12:06 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Spain's top court has said Catalan jailed separatist leader Oriol Junqueras will not be granted legal immunity. The EU's top court had ruled that — as a member of the European Parliament — he should be entitled.

Spain refuses immunity for Catalan separatist MEP Junqueras
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 13 Jan, 2020 11:57 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Catalonia’s former president has arrived in the European parliament to take his seat, vowing to continue fighting for the jailed Catalan leader Oriol Junqueras, who lost his bid to become an MEP

Puigdemont arrives to take up European parliament seat
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 29 Jan, 2020 12:21 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Catalan president to call early election as divisions grow
Quim Torra address lays bare splits over best way to achieve independence from Spain

Catalonia’s separatist president, Quim Torra, has announced he will call an early regional election amid growing divisions and deteriorating relations between the two pro-independence parties in his coalition government.

In an address that laid bare the splits between his centre-right Together for Catalonia party and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), Torra said: “No government can work without unity and without a shared, common strategy and loyalty between partners.”

He said an election would be called once the regional parliament had approved this year’s budget – a process that could take months and result in a May or June poll.

The two parties have very different views over the best way to achieve independence from Spain. Together for Catalonia favours keeping tensions high to maintain the pressure on the central government, while the ERC advocates a more pragmatic and measured approach.

The situation came to a head on Monday when the ERC refused to support Torra’s attempts to retain his voting rights after he was stripped of his status as a regional MP by Spain’s electoral board for refusing to remove pro-independence symbols from public buildings during the campaign for April’s general election.

“This legislature has no political path left; it’s reached its end,” Torra said as he announced the poll. “We’ve seen this week that as partners we are approaching along the road to independence in a way that has damaged mutual confidence.”

The regional government of Torra’s predecessor and close ally, Carles Puigdemont, staged a failed attempt to secede from Spain in the autumn of 2017, when it held a unilateral and illegal independence referendum, which it followed with a unilateral declaration of independence.

The Spanish government responded by sacking Puigdemont – who subsequently fled to Belgium to avoid arrest – seizing control of Catalonia and calling a snap regional election.

However, the gamble failed after the three pro-independence parties retained their absolute majority in the 170-seat regional parliament.

In October last year, Spain’s supreme court jailed nine Catalan separatist leaders over their roles in the push for independence. The verdict provoked a furious response from many Catalans, and led to days of violent clashes on the streets of Barcelona and other areas.

The results of the forthcoming regional election will be keenly monitored in Madrid. The coalition government led by Spain’s socialist prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, was able to take power only after the ERC agreed to abstain from an investiture vote earlier this month in return for talks to find a political solution to the territorial crisis.

Sánchez and Torra are due to meet in Barcelona next week for the first round of talks on the issue.

Catalonia remains fairly evenly split over the question of independence. Pro-independence parties have never managed to take 50% of the vote in regional elections. Meanwhile, popular support for seceding from Spain – which reached a record high of 48.7% in October 2017 – is at 43.7%, with 47.9% of Catalans opposed to it.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 24 Feb, 2020 07:26 am
@Walter Hinteler,
On Wednesday, there will be meeting in Madrid, seen as the beginning of the "bilateral negotiation table" on the independence crises, between the Spanish and Catalan government. This meeting is following a one-to-one meeting between Sánchez and Torra earlier this month. (That was the first time in over a year they had met in person after talks failed in early 2019 when Catalonia proposed a mediator to oversee the negotiations.)
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 29 Feb, 2020 02:14 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Catalan independence protesters gather near Spanish border in France
The rally was held just 30 kilometers from the Spanish border, allowing former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont to attend. Organizers estimated that as many as 150,000 people participated.

Tens of thousands of Catalan independence supporters held a major rally in Perpignan, southeastern France, on Saturday. The demonstrators gathered to support the exiled former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who called on independence advocates to prepare for a "definitive struggle" for independence.

The rally, which took place 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Spanish border, was held with the slogan: "The republic at the center of the world," a reference to their desired republic.
... ... ...

Local and regional French media called it a "historic meeting" - it was the biggest event ever organised in Perpignan since the winegrowers' demonstrations of 1907.
Puigdemont will stay until tomorrow in Pyrénées-Orientales.
He is expected at the Casa de la Generalitat* in the heart of Perpignan tonight. Tomorrow, he will go to the Mémorial de Rivesaltes before going back to Brussels.

*The "Casa de la Generalitat a Perpinyà" (French: Maison de la Généralité à Perpignan) is the delegation of the Government of Catalonia ("Generalitat de Catalunya") in "Northern Catalonia" (Catalogne Nord/Catalunya Nord)
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 13 Jul, 2020 10:43 pm
Phone of top Catalan politician 'targeted by government-grade spyware'
One of Catalonia’s most senior politicians has been warned his mobile phone was targeted using spyware its makers say is only sold to governments to track criminals and terrorists.

A joint investigation by the Guardian and El País has revealed that the speaker of the Catalan regional parliament, Roger Torrent and at least two other pro-independence supporters were told they were targeted last year in what experts said was a “possible case of domestic political espionage” in Europe.

According to a US lawsuit, the spyware exploited a previous vulnerability in WhatsApp software that would have given the operator potential access to everything on the target’s mobile phone – including emails, text messages and photographs. It could also have turned on the phone’s recorder and camera, turning it into a listening device.

Torrent, who was warned about the targeting by researchers working with WhatsApp, said it seemed clear the “Spanish state” was behind the alleged attack on his phone, and that he believed it had most likely occurred without any judicial authority.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 14 Jul, 2020 12:31 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Second Catalan politician says phone was targeted by spyware
A second prominent member of Catalan’s pro-independence movement has revealed he was warned that his mobile phone was targeted using spyware.

The development is likely to bolster calls for an investigation into the possible use of hacking technology by Spanish authorities.

Ernest Maragall, an MP in the regional parliament and a former member of the European parliament who also served as Catalan foreign minister, told the Guardian and El País that he was alerted by researchers working with WhatsApp that his phone had been targeted last year.
Torrent and Maragall – as well as two other pro-independence activists – were alerted that they were targeted in April-May 2019, when spyware used by government clients around the world exploited a previous vulnerability in WhatsApp software. The spyware, made by Israel’s NSO Group, allows the operator of the hacking tool to access an individual’s phone, including emails, calls and text messages.

NSO Group has said it has no knowledge or control over how its clients use the spyware.

Current and former leaders of Catalonia’s pro-independence government have called for an inquiry into what one researcher at Citizen Lab called a “possible case of domestic political espionage” in Europe.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 28 Jul, 2020 12:27 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Attack on Roger Torrent seen as possible act of domestic espionage
WhatsApp confirms Catalan politician's phone was target of 2019 attack
WhatsApp has confirmed that the mobile phone of a leading pro-independence politician in Catalonia was targeted over its messaging app in a 2019 attack that has been condemned as a possible case of domestic espionage in Europe.

In a letter to Roger Torrent, the speaker of the Catalan parliament, and obtained by the Guardian and El Pais, the company confirmed that his personal WhatsApp account was “targeted in an attempt to gain unauthorised access to data and communications on the device”.

The letter also confirmed that the targeting was part of an attack against WhatsApp’s users by operators of spyware made by NSO Group.

“By ‘targeted’ we are referring to the fact that the attackers attempted to inject malicious code into Mr Torrent’s WhatsApp application,” said Niamh Sweeney, director of public policy, for Europe, the Middle East and Asia at WhatsApp.

“Based on the information available to us, we are not in a position to confirm whether Mr Torrent’s device was compromised as this could only be achieved through an exhaustive forensic analysis of the device,” she said.

WhatsApp also offered Torrent “an open communication channel” and assistance with any other requests he may have and said WhatsApp Ireland would respond to “any judicial production order” for its data and logs in according to its terms and applicable law.

“We advocate for strong legal oversight of cyber weapons like the ones used in this cyberattack to ensure they are not used to violate individual rights and the freedoms people deserve, wherever they are in the world,” Sweeney said.

The confirmation letter from WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, comes two weeks after the Guardian and El Pais first revealed that Torrent and other politicians and activists who support the Catalan independence movement were targeted over a two week period in 2019. WhatsApp has said that the attack targeted 1,400 of its users, including 100 members of civil society, including journalists, diplomats, politicians, and human rights activists.

Spain’s socialist-led coalition government has denied “spying” on the Catalan politicians and activists but has so far resisted demands by some MPs for a parliamentary inquiry.

NSO Group declined to comment on the WhatsApp letter. The company, which only sells its hacking software to government clients, has denied it has any role in operating the spyware and has said it has no knowledge of who its government clients target.

WhatsApp has sued NSO Group in the US and alleged the company played a role in the 2019 attack. NSO strenuously denies the allegation and has appealed a recent court ruling that would allow WhatsApp’s case against it to proceed.

Torrent and the former regional foreign minister, Ernest Maragall, have said they plan to pursue legal action against Félix Sanz Roldán, who was the head of Spain’s National Intelligence Centre (CNI) at the time of the targeting in April and May last year.

Roldán told the Guardian the CNI “always acts with the most scrupulous regard for the law”, saying he had nothing more to add.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 28 Sep, 2020 07:57 am
@Walter Hinteler,
Catalonia's head of government is removed from office. The Supreme Court in Madrid ruled that Quim Torra had "stubbornly and unreasonably" violated the neutrality requirements of the electoral commission. Observers fear a new escalation in the Catalan conflict.
0 Replies

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