BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — A decide in Barcelona is probing doable hyperlinks between a few of the promoters of Catalonia’s 2017 try and declare independence from the remainder of Spain with an alleged misinformation marketing campaign and total effort to destabilize Europe that Spanish investigators hyperlink to Russia.
The probe approved by decide Joaquín Aguirre led on Wednesday to the arrest of 21 suspects on suspicions of corruption and selling public dysfunction. Aguirre partly based mostly the probe on police proof that purported Russian brokers allegedly supplied to supply army help to Catalan separatists on the peak of their failed secession bid in 2017.
On the recording, one of many detainees mentions a suggestion by the alleged Russian brokers to supply former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont with 10,000 troopers, apparently to assist in a theoretical armed battle with Spanish authorities. The courtroom doc supplied no indication that the provide was ever thought of by Puigdemont, nor does it present further proof that the provide was even real, or possible.
The Catalan separatist motion has at all times proclaimed non-violent beliefs, although final yr there have been violent clashes with police after a number of high leaders had been sentenced to jail for his or her roles within the 2017 breakaway bid.
Apart from the putative army help, the probe additionally targets the alleged misuse of public funds for the separatist motion in Spain in addition to the allegedly lively position of Russian-backed disinformation campaigns to discredit Spain.
“Russian interference as a geopolitical technique was a truth through the fall of 2017 when (the Russians) unfold pretend information and disinformation,” the decide mentioned, citing on-line objects backing the Catalan separatists unfold by Russian information platforms.
The Spanish authorities had accused Russia in 2017 of meddling within the Catalan battle, a cost that Russian officers denied then.
There was no quick response from Russian officers Wednesday concerning the probe approved by Aguirre.
Spain’s inside ministry mentioned the people arrested on Wednesday had been being investigated for alleged embezzlement and cash laundering. Investigations revealed that cash meant for Barcelona’s provincial authorities and a regional entity for selling sports activities groups had been diverted illegally, the ministry mentioned.
Josep Lluís Alay, an in depth collaborator of Puigdemont who runs an workplace of the ex-leader in Barcelona, was one of many detained. Others included David Madi and Oriol Vendrell, two former politicians for Catalonia’s main separatist events.
Puigdemont mentioned on Twitter that Alay and the others “should be instantly launch(d). Appearing in opposition to political dissidents is a large violation of elementary rights.”
After the breakaway bid collapsed, Puigdemont fled Spain to Brussels, the place he has campaigned to lift help for his trigger internationally. Puigdemont is presently a European Parliament member.
One other detainee, Oriol Soler, is a writer who is taken into account one of many high strategists of the separatist motion. He’s being investigated for allegedly assembly with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and with Russian contacts to advertise the separatist trigger and discredit Spain internationally.
The courtroom doc mentioned the alleged assembly between Soler and Assange in Sept. 2017 “falls throughout the technique of misinformation and destabilization wherein the Kremlin has additionally participated as a part of its basic narrative that the European Union is on the point of collapse, the principal message of the information retailers managed by the Kremlin.”
Soler’s protection lawyer, Benet Salellas, mentioned that his shopper is harmless and “denounces that the justice system is being utilized to combat in opposition to the Catalan independence motion.”
The arrests sparked a number of small protests throughout Catalonia.
Catalonia’s independence motion is supported by roughly half the inhabitants of wealth area however rejected by the opposite half and throughout Spain as a complete.
Spain’s Structure deems the nation indivisible.
AP writers Aritz Parra and Ciaran Giles contributed from Madrid.