The arrest by Germany of Catalonia’s exiled former President, Carles Puigdemont, follows on a German tradition of tracking down and imprisoning political opponents of the “regime du jour” in Madrid since the fascist putsch launched by Generalissimo Francisco Franco in 1936.
Puigdemont, who had been living in exile in Belgium since being deposed by Spain’s right-wing Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in October 2017, was arrested on March 25 by police in Schleswig-Holstein. Puigdemont’s detention by German police was based on a European arrest warrant issued by Spain, a warrant that had been conveniently ignored by authorities in Finland, where Puigdemont had spoken after traveling to Helsinki from Brussels by automobile; Denmark, where Puigdemont was transiting en route to Belgium; Sweden, via which, Puigdemont transited by ferry to and from Finland; and Belgium. The Spanish arrest warrant was similarly ignored by Denmark, during a previous trip by Puigdemont to Copenhagen, and by Swiss authorities when Puigdemont traveled there to address a conference. The Spanish extradition request for Puigdemont was based on Spanish government draconian charges of “rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds in relation to Catalonia’s declaration of independence from Spain following a plebiscite in the region that favored separation from Spain.
“Rebellion” is not a crime under German law. If it were, Germany would have long ago extradited several of secessionists based in Germany wanted for “rebellious” activities in their home countries. These include Kurds, who are members of groups favoring independence from Turkey and Iraq and who are strong in Berlin and Frankfurt; Chinese Uighurs, whose secessionist World Uighur Congress is based in Munich; Tibetans, whose exile organization is based in Bonn; Chechen separatists, who are numerous in Berlin; members of the Baloch National Movement, numerous in Hamburg and Berlin; members of the Ambazonia Liberation Movement; and Oromo secessionists, mainly found in and around Frankfurt. Many of these secessionists are wanted by their homelands for sedition and rebellion in, respectively, Turkey, China, Russia, Pakistan, Cameroon, and Ethiopia. More recently, these separatists have been joined in a welcoming Germany by Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar, West Papuans, and a few Zanzibaris from Tanzania and Rehoboth Basters from Namibia.
What separates the diverse secessionists receiving asylum and support in Germany from Catalan leaders like Puigdemont is the fact that the US Central Intelligence Agency, for years, has relied on Germany to provide a base of operations to Uighur, Tibetan, Chechen, and others it sees as “freedom fighters.” Catalonian independence has never been on the “approved list” of independence movements at CIA headquarters in Langley or at the German Federal Intelligence Service or “Bundesnachrichtendienst” (BND).
Given the close cooperation that exists between the US National Security Agency, the BND, and the Spanish National Intelligence Centre (CNI), the geo-tracking of Puigdemont’s traveling companions’ mobile phones and the homing device attached to the Renault Espace, in which Puigdemont was traveling, put a very large “FIVE EYES” signals intelligence bullseye on the Catalan leader.
The UK “Guardian” reported that twelve CNI agents were involved in tracking Puigdemont and his party of from Belgium to Helsinki and on the return trip. The paper reported that the vehicular tracking device was placed on the Renault in Waterloo, Belgium, where Puigdemont had been living in exile. Arrested in Germany with Puigdemont were his confidante, Josep María Matamala Alsina, a Catalonian businessman; Josep Lluis Alay Rodríguez, a commissioner for international relations of the city government of Barcelona; and Xabier Goicoechea Fernández and Carlos de Pedro López, members of the Catalan “Mossos d’Esquadra” police force.
Spanish Supreme Court judge Pablo Llarena, a modern-day version of the Spanish Inquisition’s infamous grand inquisitor Tomás de Torquemada, at least when it comes to prosecuting Catalonian freedom seekers, was considering charging Puigdemont’s four companions with rebellion and sedition and seeking their extradition by the Germans to Spain. Llarena has imprisoned five former members of the Catalonian government, including ex-Vice President Vice President Oriol Junqueras, for sedition and rebellion and he plans to charge as many as 25 Catalonian political leaders for what he considers crimes against the antiquated Bourbon monarchy and the Francoist prime minister, Rajoy, who governs Spain on behalf of King Felipe VI. The King, who ascended the throne after the 2014 abdication of his corrupt father, King Juan Carlos I, accused the Catalonians of violating the “rule of law and national sovereignty.”
Felipe was really accusing the Catalonians of violating “lèse-majesté,” the feudalistic legal concept that the Catalonians had committed an offense against the “dignity of a reigning sovereign.” The French revolutionaries set the stage for relegating “lèse-majesté” to the dustbin of history when, in 1793, they guillotined the French King Louis XVI, a distant ancestor of Felipe.
Germany placed Puigdemont in a 97-square feet jail cell in Neumünster prison in Schleswig-Holstein, a detention center once used by the Gestapo. Puigdemont’s cell had only a dingy cot; a toilet, shower, and sink; a television; a desk and chair; and a small wooden chest of drawers/wardrobe combination. Internet and outgoing phone calls are prohibited.
On April 6, a court in Schleswig-Holstein ruled that the Spanish charge of “rebellion” did not constitute grounds to either hold Puigdemont or extradite him to Spain. It should be noted that in ordering Puigdemont freed on a usurious $90,000 bail, the German court stipulated that Puigdemont’s extradition to Spain was only “suspended,” not vacated. The court ruled that Spain’s charge that Puigdemont used public funds to hold the Catalonian independence referendum could still constitute a reason to extradite him to Spain. In addition, the German court said it would consult with Spanish and federal German authorities on this point.
The German Foreign Ministry has cited the “independence” of the Spanish judiciary in the prosecution of Catalonian leaders. Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she hopes Puigdemont’s extradition to Spain “goes ahead.” It appears that some in Germany still treasure past German support for the Francoist traditions of Spain’s court system and other anti-Catalan and anti-Basque “instruments” of government in Madrid. Spain’s national police force, the “Guardia Civil,” took lessons from Heinrich Himmler and the Gestapo during and after the Spanish Civil War. The “Guardia,” feared under Franco’s dictatorship, preserves many of the Nazi SS’s basic surveillance traditions in its age-old battle against the Catalonians and Basques. It is the “Guardia” upon whom the modern-day Torquemada, Judge Llarena, relies upon to round up Catalonian leaders for prosecution and imprisonment. Under the Hendaye Agreement of 1940 between Nazi Germany and Spain, German intelligence helped keep tabs on members of the Spanish Republican government-in-exile, as well as veterans of the International Brigades who fought for the Spanish loyalists during the civil war. German Abwehr military intelligence agents identified members and supporters of the Spanish, Catalonian, and Basque governments-in-exile in places as far afield as Havana, Mexico City, Montevideo, Bogota, Santiago, Panama City, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Santo Domingo (then called Ciudad Trujillo), and New York City.
When France fell to the Germans, the Gestapo scoured French police files for information on Spanish expatriate residents in France who supported the loyalist government. These included many Catalonians and Basques, some of whom had fled to France after the brutal suppression of the Catalonian rebellion of 1934, as well as the Basque government-in-exile in Paris. Franco’s intelligence service also sent agents to Axis Power-occupied and neutral territory to “neutralize” or arrest Catalonian and other dissidents. Spanish nationalist agents fanned out to Rotterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, Toulouse, Zurich, and Geneva in search of Catalonian, Basque, and Spanish enemies of Franco and his Falangist Party.
Spanish Republican President Manuel Azaña, exile in France, was arrested by the Vichy authorities after the Nazi occupation of France. Azaña died while under arrest at the Montauban internment camp. Merkel and her government, who support the arrest and extradition of Puigdemont, have much in common, and not in a good way, with the Vichy authorities who arrested Azaña.
Instead of Franco and his spies, it is now Rajoy and CNI that sends agents out across Europe. In the case of Puigdemont’s delegation, these Spanish agents were dispatched to Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany to apprehend the Catalonian leadership. Adolf Hitler assisted Franco in tracking down enemies of the Madrid government. Today, it is Merkel who is providing similar assistance to Rajoy.