Spanish government denies any involvement in Catalangate

Cabinet believes espionage will not interfere with negotiations between both executives

Spanish government spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez after a cabinet meeting on April 19, 2022 (by Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa)
Spanish government spokesperson Isabel Rodríguez after a cabinet meeting on April 19, 2022 (by Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa) / ACN

ACN | Madrid

April 19, 2022 04:34 PM

The Spanish government has denied any connection to the massive espionage case against up to 65 different Catalan pro-independence leaders. The cabinet "has nothing to hide," said spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, on Tuesday regarding Catalangate, an investigation published by The New Yorker and the Citizen Lab group on Monday

In fact, the government, if necessary, will "collaborate with the justice to the maximum extent possible on the investigation of these facts," Rodríguez said during a press conference after the cabinet meeting. 

"The cabinet will not tolerate Spain’s democratic integrity being questioned, as this country is a democratic one, and a state where individuals’ rights are respected," she added. However, she has rejected an internal investigation requested by the junior coalition partner, Podemos. 

Asked if the Spanish intelligence agency (CNI) uses Pegasus, Rodríguez cited the official secrets law to avoid answering.  

One of the requests from the anti-capitalist Podemos party spokesperson, Pablo Echenique, was that the government gave "clear explanations." He urged the Interior and the Defense ministers to explain the situation. 

"Parliamentary forces can request whatever they want, but this is the governments’ position," Rodríguez said.   

Despite requests from political leaders, the Spanish government does not expect a speech in Congress from Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez. It will be Margarita Robles, Defense minister, who will answer questions from lawmakers after she requested the floor to explain "topics related to her role," the spokesperson explained. However, Robles will not be able to talk about topics protected under Spain’s official secrets law

The Catalan Socialist party believes that the government "will work to discover what happened and to give the necessary explanations," spokesperson Alícia Romero said during a press conference in the Catalan parliament. 

She has acknowledged the worrying effects of political espionage "being pro-independence or not." "It is not good news for democracy," she added. 

On the other side, former Catalan president and victim of Catalangate, Quim Torra, urged the PM to resign as "they have been spying on us while we were trying to negotiate with them," he said in a video released on Tuesday. 

Torra has also called on Pere Aragonès to "end the negotiation table", a meeting held a number of times between the Catalan and Spanish governments to find a solution to the Catalan independence crisis.

"This is terrible, and in my case, it is even worse," he added, referring to being spied on while he was in office, and during "the worst moment our country has gone through in decades, the Covid-19 pandemic."  

Spain’s Supreme Court remains silent

On the judicial side, the Spanish Supreme Court has not responded to any of the questions asked by the Catalan News Agency (ACN) as regards whether the body had authorized any espionage by the CNI. 

Sources say that Spanish intelligence is monitored and controlled by the court as the law establishes that any listening police operations have to be timed precisely and targeted personally. 

When requesting these listenings, the agency has to declare the reasons why they are required.