14 people summoned to court for duplicating referendum website
Catalan Government sends letter appealing to the European Commission to defend the free and open internet
14 people were summoned to Spanish police stations, accused of having duplicated the original government websites about the referendum. This occurred in Barcelona, the northern Catalan city of Girona, and the southern Catalan city of Tarragona. The original website, referendum.cat, was shut down by the Spanish government earlier this month.
The individuals summoned are being investigated for disobedience. Four of them, those from Girona and Tarragona, used their right to silence and have since been released. The remaining ten, all from Barcelona, foreseeably refuse to testify.
No previous warning about the alleged crime
The lawyers defending those individuals summoned in Girona have questioned the fact that their cause is open to begin with. Indeed, they had not been previously informed that duplicating websites could be an alleged crime.
Their declaration was made in the middle of an intense Spanish police deployment, surrounded by about ten anti-riot vans and many officers. A hundred people gathered in front of the police station to support those who were arrested, including the mayor of Girona, deputies and congressmen.
“The request is of unprecedented and absolute scope in Western democracies”
Jordi Puigneró · Secretary of Telecommunications, Cybersecurity and Digital Society of the Catalan government
Unlawful repression and censorship by Spain
The Secretary of Telecommunications, Cybersecurity and Digital Society of the Catalan government, Jordi Puigneró, sent a letter to the European Commissioner of the digital single market, Andrus Ansip. In the text, he denounced “ongoing unlawful repression” of Catalan autonomy institutions by the Kingdom of Spain, “concerning open internet access.” Puigneró announced the correspondence through a post on Twitter, where he also attached the letter he wrote.
In his letter, Puigneró started at the beginning. He described the incident of the September 15 seizure warrant received by the puntCat Foundation, which he also included. The Foundation is dedicated to promoting the Catalan language through website domains, and its CTO was even arrested during the major anti-referendum raids by the Spanish Guardia Civil on September 20. The executive has since been released, but he’s been charged with various offenses, including ‘disobedience.’
Puigneró also detailed the orders currently received by Spanish telecommunications operators, requesting that their companies block access to “not only specific referendum sites, but also proxy servers.” This, in addition to being told to block referendum websites promoted on Catalan officials’ social media pages “without any further court order.”
Unprecedented actions for Western democracies
He further explained that the incident has caught the attention of international media and entities. He stated that this is because “legal experts agree that the request is of unprecedented and absolute scope in Western democracies,” explaining that it is because “it targets not only organizational sites of the referendum, but political speech.”
Puigneró further wrote that the Catalan Government “refuses all these censorship measures” and “considers them unlawful from the point of view of Spanish, Union, and International Law.” Finally, he calls on the EC to perform its role as "the ultimate guardian of the open and free Internet," which Puigneró writes “is truly at stake right now.”