Today I've been forwarded an excerpt from an article from a few days ago. A very harsh article referring to a devastating report on the harsh conditions of the imprisonment of the pro-independence Catalan activist Jordi Cuixart, in which the Council of Europe rules that he suffers "reprisals and intimidation", that he's locked in his cell 23 hours a day, that his situation is worsened by the pandemic, that he's a defender of human rights and that his trial was a political trial..
Obviously this article alerted me. Is Cuixart's situation really so serious? Are these the verbatim words of the European Council report?
Let's find out.
The first step is to search for the article online. Indeed, we come to the publication of La Vanguardia. What I've been sent is not a fake, it's part of a real article, although to my disappointment it doesn't include any link to the report or any transcript of it, in fact there's not even the name of the report. La Vanguardia adds: "Cuixart is the only human rights defender of the European Union that appears in the report". Let's remember that Cuixart is, together with Jordi Sanchez, one of the two organizers of the siege of the Via Layetana courts and according to a Amnesty International report "appears to have aimed to obstruct police action and this must be investigated", but he's listed here as a "human rights defender". Anyway. I'm looking for the signer of the article. His cryptic name is "AGENCIES". Let's see which agency has published it.
I search for the headline on Google and find that it's a cut-and-paste of an article from Europa Press. They haven't even bothered to change the headline, because it's the same. Let's read that article.
The Europa Press statement is just as alarming. It states that according to the rapporteur of the Council of Europe Alexandra Louis, Cuixart suffers "reprisals and intimidation", the conditions of his confinement are worsened by the Covid issue ... the same. It must be true, then. It's also quoted, so it must be a literal extract from the report. Ah! And also comes the name of the report: 'Situation of human rights defenders in the member states of the Council of Europe'. Curiously, there's no mention of that striking phrase by La Vanguardia that hilights that Cuixart "is the only defender of human rights in Europe..". Perhaps the journalist from La Vanguardia has read anything more than the Europa Press statement. The curious thing is that at the foot of such statement Europa Press indicates that for more information you should go to the website of Omnium Cultural, the organization chaired by the prisoner. It's not a very unbiased source, let's put in that way.
But as what I'm looking for is the truth I have to locate the original report. I guess that by searching the report name I can easily find it on the website of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. That's exactly where I found it.
The title is: "Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights: Situation of human rights defenders in Council of Europe"
I read it in full. And it's not the same.
This is the only paragraph that mentions Cuixart in the entire lengthy report that reviews the cases under study of "imprisoned human rights defenders". It's located in the last place of such report, as a final note.
"35. Furthermore, in relation to Spain, I have also been interested in the situation and conditions of imprisonment of Jordi Cuixart, president of the Omnium Cultural association, founded in 1961 under the Franco dictatorship. Omnium Cultural is an association that promotes rights civil and cultural rights in Catalonia. Mr. Cuixart was arrested and placed in preventive detention on October 16, 2017 following the events related to the Catalan independence referendum on October 1, 2017. In September 2019, the Supreme Court sentenced for sedition to nine years in prison in the trial of twelve Catalan political leaders and social activists. According to his lawyers, the trial was of a political nature and Mr. Cuixart should not have been tried by the Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction to try elected officials and not civil society activists like him".
And that's it. Certainly the name of Cuixart is mentioned in a report that speaks of human rights defenders since the condemned man presided over an organization that despite dedicating itself to political activism called itself "cultural" and claimed to vindicate the Catalan culture (or a part of it). But the rest of the content mentioned in the articles in Europa Press and La Vanguardia doesn't exist in the report. Wanting to be well thought out, the word "retaliation" IS mentioned, but linked to some of the other incarcerated and on occasion to the general condition of the prisoners, but without mentioning Cuixart. The impact of Covid on the conditions of incarceration is not mentioned either in connection with the Cuixart case, and there's no mention of any kind of intimidation towards him, nor is there any mention in the entire report about the alleged 23 daily hours of confinement or that he's the "only defender of human rights Europe on the list". Oh, and the report doesn't rule that Cuixart has been subjected to a political trial, but that the rapporteur limits herself to quote the opinion of Cuixart's lawyers.
Now I'm going to be a little bad thought. I'm going to follow the advice of Europa Press and I'm going to visit the website of Omnium Cultural, the pro-independence organization chaired by the prisoner. That's where the catchy phrase "Europe's only human rights defender" comes in. Now I can guess from where La Vanguardia got that information that it pretends to make believe that it comes from the report. And my doubts are fully cleared when I realize that in the article in Spanish of La Vanguardia the paragraphs of the Omnium website have been transcribed so carelessly that they are not only literal copies, but they have been left with words in Catalan without translate from original text, such as "and requested the alliberament" or "The High Commissioner tambè expressed himself". What sloppiness.
I wonder what the rapporteur Alexandra Louis would think, because she surely has a real concern about the situation of the prisoners who she considers to be defending human rights, if she knew not only the real purpose of the organization that Cuixart led, but also the manipulation of her report that the nationalist forces do with the invaluable collaboration of media such as La Vanguardia, which masterfully choose a paragraph from here and another from there to put half the truth and half a lie in her mouth.
And I'm going to do what La Vanguardia hasn't done. Here's the link to the original report of the Council of Europe. It's sad that it says what it says, but it doesn't say what La Vanguardia says it says, if you know what I mean.