Read in Catalan

The 'patriotic police' brigade which conducted Operation Catalonia used a neighbour of the key pro-independence leader Jordi Sànchez to spy on him when he was president of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC). As revealed by radio programme El Món a RAC1, the neighbour, with the initials P.O., was the brother of the police leader at that time directing the Spanish interior ministry's intelligence services and one of the leaders of the illegal operation carried out under People's Party (PP) minister Jorge Fernández Díaz. 

Jordi Sànchez's change of address just as he became ANC leader

It all started in 2015, when pro-independence activist Jordi Sànchez did not yet have a prominent political role, but became a public figure due to the elections to the ANC secretariat, in which he came second, and shortly after, became president of the largest pro-independence organization in Catalonia. This coincided with a change of address, after an architectural firm contacted Sànchez in 2011 to offer him to join a community of owners to buy a plot of land in Barcelona and build a block of flats on it. Construction was completed end in the summer of 2015 and, by chance, one of his new neighbours was the brother of one of the most senior leaders of the patriotic police.

P.O. discovered that his neighbour, Jordi Sànchez, was the new president of the ANC, and quickly informed his brother. From that time on, P.O. took it upon himself to follow Jordi Sànchez's movements discreetly and worked to gain his confidence. He followed the movements of the then-ANC president, and monitored people who visited him and packages and shipments he received. From all that, he was able to produce two intelligence memos with details of the private life of the pro-independence figure, who later spent more than three and a half years in prison (mostly on remand) as one of the leaders of the October 1st, 2017 referendum and independence process. He was also general secretary of Together for Catalonia (Junts). 

🟡 Exclusive interview with Jordi Sànchez, the day in 2019 when he was sentenced to 9 years' jail for sedition

P.O's role was only known to a small group of senior officials in the interior ministry and the Spanish National Police. In fact, two of these were commissioner José Manuel Villarejo and the Spanish Police chief, Eugenio Pino, with whom he had several meetings.

P.O. says it was he who was exploiting the patriotic police

In fact, on the RAC1 programme, P.O. admitted his meetings with the patriotic police leaders and that he never explained his role to Jordi Sànchez. However, he explains his participation in Operation Catalonia by saying that it was not the patriotic police who used him, but he who used the patriotic police. According to the man who spied on Jordi Sànchez, his role was to extract information from the patriotic police itself, despite the fact that P.O. did not detail why an anonymous worker, one of many others, should have wanted information about the state's manoeuvres against the independence movement.

Nor did he explain what he did with the information he obtained, and he didn't rule out that the police brigade took advantage of the fact that he lived next to Jordi Sànchez to stick his nose into affairs more than he should have, but he insisted that, in any case, he did not give information intentionally. The fact is that Jordi Sànchez's spy did not receive a single euro from the state's reserved funds. He said that he played this role out of conviction and love for his brother.

Jordi Sànchez calls for a reform of the judicial and police system

Minutes after the interview, Jordi Sànchez came out in response to the information and condemned Jorge Fernández Díaz's interior ministry. The former ANC president explained that he learnt of this matter through RAC1. "All the residents in the building get along. It's shocking information," said Sànchez, who explained that he lives "right next door, wall to wall" with P.O. Sànchez also explained that, due to his own nature, he did not share details about the independence process with anyone. "Because of the way I am and because of my conscience, I am a very discreet person", explained Sànchez, who emphasizes that at no time was the October 1st referendum in danger.

Sànchez has demanded a reform of the Spanish state. Specifically, in the areas of the judiciary and police, comparing his request with the reform made of the Spanish army in the 1980s. "Until a thorough reform is carried out of the police force and justice system, the black box that is hidden behind the good words of state security can very easily lead to more situations like this," he said.

Exiled president Carles Puigdemont has also condemned this new episode in the Operation Catalonia that has come to light, comparing it to methods "typical of dictatorships". "Little by little they are all being unmasked. What Jordi Sànchez and his family must feel when they learnt that their neighbour was one of those who spied on them cannot be trivialized or apologized for, the president-in-exile stressed.