Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Andorra to investigate Spanish “coercion” to frame Catalan officials


Barcelona (ACN).- The Human Rights Institute of Andorra (IHDA) and the Catalan rights association ‘Drets’, have filed a joint complaint before the courts in Andorra against four Spanish police officers who were part of the alleged smear campaign of the Spanish Ministry of Interior against Catalan officials, the so-called “Operation Catalonia”. The highly ranked police officers shall be investigated for crimes such as threatening, coercion and extortion of citizens of Andorra with the objective of “obtaining information” on “supposedly existing bank accounts” of Catalan pro-independence politicians in order “to destroy their public image”. Representatives of the private accusation explained to the press on Tuesday that the alleged pressures of the Spanish National Police forces on citizens of another country violate international treaties, and represent a “state crime”. The complaint has already been accepted by the Instruction Court (Batllia) number 2 of Andorra.

As representatives of the IHDA and the Catalan lawyers’ organization ‘Drets’ (Rights) reported on Tuesday, the two associations have presented a joint complaint before the judge of instruction in Andorra against four highly ranked members of the Spanish police forces: Eugenio Pino, former head of the National Spanish Police Board (DAO), Bonifacio Díaz, former leading police inspector of the same unit, the inspector Marcelino Martin-Blas, director of Internal Affairs, and Celestino Barroso Sánchez, attaché of the Ministry of Interior at the Spanish embassy in Andorra.

The plaintiffs consider that as a part of the alleged smear campaign against Catalan officials known as “Operation Catalonia”, the Spanish police officers acted as an “organized group” following “someone’s orders”, thus violating the rights and freedom of three Andorran citizens: the main shareholder of the Private Bank of Andorra (BPA), Higini Cierco, the delegate of the BPA and Banco Madrid, Joan Pau Miquel, and the secretary of the administration board of the BPA, Rosa Castellón.

According to the lawyers’ investigations, in 2014 all three executives had been threatened and subject to extortion by the Spanish police so that they would reveal information about possible bank accounts of Catalan pro-independence politicians like the current Vice President and Minister of Economy and Finance, Oriol Junqueras or the former Catalan president, Artur Mas. According to the plaintiff's sources, the three Andorran citizens finally lodged a public complaint about the pressure they had received from the four police officers.

The fact that the Spanish state officials acted “in a coordinated fashion” is considered “especially severe” from an international law perspective, since the banks were not Spanish but from a different state, which presents a “complete lack of respect for the sovereignty, independence, and integrity of the state of Andorra” as well as “the violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention” and the “Good Neighbors Treaty signed by France, the Principality of Andorra and the Spanish Kingdom” in 1993.

The two organizations also pointed out that the threats by the Spanish police were duly carried out. In 2015 the pressure of the Spanish State led to the closure of the Private Bank of Andorra (BPA) and its sister bank, Banco Madrid. However, during the investigations into both banks, no bank deposits belonging to the Catalan politicians like Artur Mas or Oriol Junqueras were found.

Alfons Clavera, criminal lawyer and vice president of the IHDA, said in comments to the CNA that he considers the alleged actions of the Spanish police as “politically motivated” and that they “violated international treaties with Andorra” by failing to show “respect” to our sovereignty. If investigations prove the alleged crimes, “Operation Catalonia” could take on a much bigger dimension and show “a systematic prosecution of political rivals” by Spanish public servants.

The two organizations, who have joint forces, do not discard the possibility of presenting criminal charges before the Spanish Audiéncia Nacional court, to work “against the impunity of the Operation Catalonia”. As CNA informed, so far the Spanish General Prosecutor has not called any investigations into the allegedly illegal operations of the Spanish police force and the Spanish Ministry of Interior under the leadership of its former minister José Fernandez Díaz.

One of the difficulties that the lawyers of both organizations are facing is the fact that two of the accused state officials, Barroso and Díaz, have diplomatic immunity. According to the representatives of the accusation, lifting this immunity is a challenge that has to be resolved “through a complicated maze of judges, police offices, and diplomatic institutions”. According to Alfons Clavera, the judge or “Batlle” from Andorra has to make a request to Andorra’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in return has to demand the cancellation of the Spanish ministry’s diplomatic immunity. “Now we will see if the signed international treaties are working,” said Agustí Carles, lawyer and founding member of the ‘Drets’ organization.

On Tuesday afternoon, the representatives of the Human Rights Institute of Andorra (IHDA) and the Catalan association ‘Drets’ (Rights) have been called to testify before the committee investigating “Operation Catalonia” in the Catalan Parliament.

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  • Representatives of the Institute for Human Rights of Andorra and 'Drets' association (by Júlia Perez)
  • Alfons Clavera, lawyer and IDHA vice president (by Júlia Perez)