Catalonia’s Independence Movement holds press conference in the European Parliament on CatalanGate espionage scandal

Esquerra leader Oriol Junqueras participates in a press conference together with all the independence parties and organizations after the CatalanGate revelations

Catalonia’s independence movement has been the victim of the most massive illegal espionage case in history. This was revealed in an article by US magazine The New Yorker on a report by Citizen Lab, a Canadian laboratory that studies information controls that affect Internet security and threaten human rights.

The investigation found that at least 65 people linked to Catalonia’s independence movement have been targeted by the spyware program known as Pegasus. The use of this software in the case of then Speaker of the Parliament and now Minister of Business and Labour, Roger Torrent, and Esquerra’s leader at Barcelona City Council, Ernest Maragall, had already been uncovered almost two years ago. This time, there have been attacks verified on around 70 persons between 2017 and 2021. Most of the victims are members of the leading civil and political organizations in Catalonia, but the attacks also extend to their circles, including family, friends, lawyers, journalists, etc. This makes CatalanGate by far the most widely documented Pegasus espionage case anywhere.

One case is Esquerra leader Oriol Junqueras, who would not be targeted after the October 1 2017 independence referendum since he was unjustly jailed for almost four years. However, the people around him were, from members of Esquerra to people who had visited him in prison.
Oriol Junqueras: “Illegal use of Pegasus endangers fundamental rights; we have to fight it”

“The use of this software has been directed, in Catalonia and elsewhere, against journalists, lawyers, politicians, human rights activists and many others,” said Mr Junqueras at a joint press conference pro-independence parties and organizations held today in the European Parliament. “This illegal and uncontrolled use endangers the fundamental rights of all citizens, and must be combatted,” he said bluntly.

  Catalonia’s Independence Movement holds press conference in the European Parliament on CatalanGate espionage scandal

The Spanish state guilty

It is often not possible to identify who perpetrated or where the attacks took place. In any case, Citizen Lab states in its report that, “while the perpetrators of the attacks cannot be attributed with certainty, there is strong evidence to suggest a link with the Spanish authorities.” For Esquerra, the question is rhetorical: Who but the Spanish state would have been interested in getting information about the independence movement between 2017 and 2021?

Furthermore, what is public is that this spyware is sold only to government agencies, that is, to states. The New Yorker report includes the testimony of a former employee of Pegasus developer NSO Group, who stated that “Spain has a confirmed account with the company.”

In this regard, Mr Junqueras demanded that “if a part of the repressive apparatus of the Spanish state uses this tool, with consent or not, it is obliged to offer explanations.” Esquerra’s leader remarked that in fact, even if the Spanish government “says it knows nothing… it does have the responsibility to know.”

Mr Junqueras also argued that the CatalanGate revelation reinforces the need for a negotiating table on the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain. Now the espionage has been uncovered, “in the eyes of the international community, who accrues the most political capital?” asked Esquerra’s leader. “Without a doubt, it is the Catalan independence movement” he retorted. Mr Junqueras recalled that “making the Spanish government sit at a negotiating table” is “a useful tool… not to convince the Spanish government, but to convince the international community.” “When you negotiate with someone, you negotiate with someone you don’t agree with. Negotiation is a banner that we do not want to relinquish in any way to those who don’t deserve it, and the Spanish state does not deserve it” concluded Mr Junqueras.

Esquerra Republicana, directly affected

Unfortunately, Esquerra Republicana has experienced a long history of repression. As far as Esquerra is concerned, this huge case of illegal espionage is just another example of the repression that the Spanish state is exerting on the independence movement.

That is why so many of those affected by CatalanGate are members of this political party: the President of Catalonia’s Generalitat government, Pere Aragonès, who was spied on when he was the Vice-President of the last government; Esquerra Secretary General Marta Rovira; the Minister for Business and Labour Roger Torrent, who was spied on when he was the Speaker of Parliament; the leader of Esquerra’s parliamentary group and the chair of the National Council Josep Maria Jové; MCP Meritxell Serret, spied upon when in exile and when she was the government Delegate to the EU; MEP Diana Riba, the only Member of the European Parliament to be spied. And other colleagues such as Jordi Solé, Ernest Maragall, Sergi Sabrià, Oriol Sagrera, Xavier Vendrell and Esquerra lawyer Andreu Van den Eynde.

In the eyes of the international community, who accrues the most political capital? Without a doubt, it is the Catalan independence movement
Oriol Junqueras

We will take action at all levels

In the face of what Esquerra identifies as an attack on democracy, the party will take a series of actions together with other political parties and pro-independence organizations to denounce the case in Spain, Europe and the world and demand accountability. Some of these are:

  • Denouncing the political espionage by the Spanish state using Pegasus before the European Parliament. In fact, a commission of inquiry into espionage has been established today, and Esquerra MEP Diana Riba will report the case.
  • Addressing a letter to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen; to the EC Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, calling for “protection and security for MEPs spied upon. Also to the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, and to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
  • Filing further complaints at the Court of Instruction 32 in Barcelona, extending the complaint previously filed in the first two cases revealed.
  • In Parliament, together with the other pro-independence groups, require the appearance of the Spanish government delegate to Catalonia to give explanations.
  • In Spain’s Congress and Senate, jointly with other parliamentary groups, demand explanations and appearances of officials, among other initiatives.