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A predictable move. Spanish judge Manuel García-Castellón has agreed to extend his examination of the Democratic Tsunami case for another six months due to the investigative actions still pending, according to a resolution communicated this Monday at noon. The National Audience judge reactivated the case on November 6th last year, accusing Catalan president-in-exile Carles Puigdemont, the Republican Left (ERC) general secretary, Marta Rovira, and ten other people with crimes of terrorism. Puigdemont's party Together for Catalonia (Junts) and even the Socialists (PSOE) have been critical of the judge, suggesting that he is trying to destroy the ability of Puigdemont and other pro-independence politicians in exile from being able to take advantage of the amnesty law, currently in legislative process. Meanwhile, a second investigation into the Catalan independence movement, the so-called Volhov case - also long-running and equally fruitless - has also had its period of inquiry extended today, by Barcelona judge Joaquín Aguirre

In the Tsunami case resolution, García-Castellón explains that he cannot close the investigation because the criminal chamber of the National Audience has yet to resolve the appeals made by public prosecutors - supported by all defence lawyers - affirming that there are no indications of terrorism crimes in the case, but only of public disorder offences, and also ruling out the politicians as authors of any crime in the case. Meanwhile, the move that the judge himself made was, without waiting for the National Audience's response, to elevate to the Supreme Court the exposition of the evidence against Puigdemont. Now, if the Supreme Court accepts his thesis, the National Audience will have to abide by it, even if it does not agree that the actions under investigation fit into the definition of terrorism.

Thus, under the new extension, the Democratic Tsunami case, centred on the pro-independence protest platform of that name, is able to continue until July 29th, 2024, a date that will almost coincide with judge García-Castellón's retirement.

Out of time

In his resolution, the judge also rules out the line argued by lawyer Gonzalo Boye, that the 2021 expiry date for the investigation had been missed and, therefore, all subsequent investigation is null and void. When the judge asked the parties about the extension of the investigation, whose current term ended this Monday, Boye, the lawyer defending Josep Lluís Alay and Puigdemont, replied that it had been expired since July 29th, 2021, given that the extension dictated at that time was agreed upon when the time period for doing so had already run out and therefore any further investigation would be in violation of the law and "null and void". Because of all of this, he requested that the actions carried out since July 2021 be declared null and void and the whole procedure dismissed. However, judge García-Castellón replied that all of this was not true and the investigation continues.

In fact, García-Castellón responded to Boye that he had not committed any irregularity. Spanish law on criminal proceedings, he asserted, establishes that no new investigation proceedings can be carried out if the deadline has expired, but, in the case of Tsunami, the judge maintains that it did not happen. He states that the resolution of July 30th, 2021 "extended the investigation period", whose last day before expiry had been July 29th, 2021.

Well-founded evidence

Additionally, judge García-Castellón dismissed the appeals of lawyers Benet Salellas and Marina Roig, who also opposed the extension of the investigation, in their case because they maintain that the National Audience is not competent to investigate the actions. The judge replies: "This is not an accusation based on suspicion or conjecture. There are well-founded and serious indications that criminal acts were committed which could be classified as acts of terrorism". In addition, he states that responses to calls for international assistance in the case have not arrived, along with all the investigative inquiries, some of which are being repeated, that the judge requested last Friday. There was even a new line introduced last week: an attempted action against the Spanish royal entourage in 2020.

Volhov case also gets an extension

The extension of the Democratic Tsunami case this Monday coincides with a similar move dictated by the judge of the Volhov case, Joaquín Aguirre, who considers that he needs another six months to continue an investigation that has appeared at a standstill for some time, after finding more indications that a plot involving Russia wanted to help Catalan president Puigdemont in the independence process that his government led in 2017. In the resolution, judge Aguirre states that he has reviewed "abundant documentation in the different parts of the case" and that "he has found data that identifies people and appears to confirm the close personal relationships between some of those investigated with individuals of Russian, German or Italian nationality, some of them while holding diplomatic positions or relations with Russian secret services, other influential members of far-right German or Italian political parties with interests in establishing relations of political and economic influence with the government of Catalonia, if it unilaterally became independent from Spain”.

Both the Volhov case and the Tsunami investigation are example of criminal investigations, conducted over years without bringing to light hard evidence of major offences, but with interpretations and lines of inquiry that attempt to thwart a possible amnesty for the Catalan president in exile. The time extensions granted by the judges coincide with the parliamentary passage of the amnesty bill to bring to an end Catalan independence process prosecutions.