“A country where the only law is that of the code of silence is not a country, it is mafia” says Esquerra’s spokesperson addressing Prime Minister Sánchez

The spokesman for Esquerra’s Republican Group in the Spanish Congress denounces the espionage of pro-independence activists for the mere fact of being just that, and considers it extremely grave that the Spanish government has equated pro-independence with threats such as jihadism to justify the surveillance.

The spokesperson for Esquerra Republicana in the Spanish Congress, Gabriel Rufián, warned Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Thursday that “a country where the main law is that of the code of silence is not a country, it is mafia.” He spoke out during the session that the Congress dedicated exclusively to the CatalanGate and Pegasus espionage scandal that has affected dozens of people among the pro-independence movement, starting with the President of Catalonia’s Generalitat government and Esquerra’s National Coordinator, Pere Aragonès. Before the Spanish government’s recurring excuse that Spain is a full democracy, Mr Rufián said that “the best thing to ensure that Spain is a full democracy, is to be aware once and for all that it is not.”

Mr Rufián again denounced the governing Spanish Socialist PSOE's refusal to facilitate the establishment of an Inquiry Committee to clarify the facts and determine the accountability of those who, by act or omission, are complicit in the scandal. Mr Sánchez himself has acknowledged that Spain’s CNI intelligence agency requested and obtained warrants to spy on the mobile phones of 18 pro-independence activists. “One comes to realise that their names, leaked to the press, share one thing: ideology,” said Mr Rufián. In the face of this, the question is inarguably “What was the crime they had committed? What was the threat for which they were being spied on?” And since almost three years have gone by since the espionage with no criminal prosecution arising, “what has become of the information they gathered?”

In reply to the initial intervention by PM Sánchez, who referred to road blockages and “blazes” in Barcelona, referring to the burning of containers during the protests in response to the prison sentences for pro-independence leaders and activists, Mr Rufián asked: “So, if trade unionists now block roads or burn containers when claiming workers’ rights, will they also be spied on? Are you aware what this would open the door to?”

“In this country, warrants to spy on people should only concern direct threats to state security, such as drug trafficking, organized crime and international jihadism” said Mr Rufián. “Which of those 18 politicians, activists, lawyers and journalists spied on under the auspices of a warrant was a drug dealer, a criminal or an international jihadist? What threat did they pose?” “Should we believe that you consider jihadism and independence one and the same?” He then gave an even more specific example: “Why were they spying on the President of the Generalitat while the investiture was being negotiated with Esquerra?”

Who ordered the espionage and who did it? Who is responsible for this chasm between legality and illegality?
Gabriel Rufian Spokesperson for Esquerra Republicana in the Spanish Congress

Esquerra’s spokesperson in Congress insisted on demanding explanations regarding others in the pro-independence camp—up to 47, according to the Citizen Lab report—who have also been spied on. “Who ordered the espionage and who did it? Who is responsible for this chasm between legality and illegality?” he wondered. In this regard, Mr Rufián asked if there are still now out-of-control state agencies in Spain, “and I mean the National Police and the [paramilitary] Guardia Civil.” He justified his suspicions because in three different committees of inquiry, “testimony has been given that there are gentlemen with badges who believe that this country is so their own that no one else fits in. The Patriotic Brigade. And above all, that anything goes against anyone they don’t like.”

He specifically recalled the questioning by an inquiry committee of Eugenio Pino, a former deputy director of the National Police, where he said that he was “willing to do anything” for Spain. “That twenty second statement chills you to the blood.”

Mr Rufián accused Prime Minister Sánchez of upholding cabinet member Margarita Robles at all cost at the head of the Ministry of Defence, and as such the top political official of the intelligence services, and who has often justified the espionage of pro-independence leaders. “No matter what happens, she can only say that she is very proud of the 3,000 men and women who make up the CNI,” said Mr Rufián. “Not for nothing is she the Right’s favourite minister” he concluded. And addressing Ms Robles herself, he said “When I was just going to school, you [a judge at the time] confronted them. The question is, why are you protecting them now?”

Also in reply to Mr Sánchez on what he has defined as the “agenda for rapprochement and coexistence in Catalonia,” Esquerra’s spokesperson reminded him that never in the course of politics should a referendum or a vote be a problem of coexistence, nor should the act of speaking out be shameful. “Seeing the panorama you have in this chamber, with the right and the far right, maybe the problem of coexistence is here,” he jibed.

Following the espionage scandal, the Spanish government’s response has been the dismissal of the Director of the CNI and the announcement by Pedro Sánchez in yesterday’s session of his predisposition to declassify documents under court order. He said he was likewise ready to propose a new Official Secrets Act—the current law having been in effect since 1968, in the midst of the Franco dictatorship—and one regulating the internal operation of the CNI.