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For a judge, being seen to be impartial is essential. For this reason, holders of judicial posts avoid making public statements about court procedures they are involved with. This has not been the case, however, for the Spanish judge investigating the so-called Volhov case, Joaquin Aguirre, who has appeared on German television commenting on the long-running investigation into an alleged Russian conspiracy in the Catalan independence process, which he links to president Carles Puigdemont. In his appearance on German screens, the Barcelona investigative judge does not hesitate to talk about an attempt by Russia to infiltrate all the liberal democracies of Western Europe through the Catalan independence process.

The report appeared in the news programme Tagesschau, broadcast by a consortium of German public television stations. The judge appears in his office, giving a summary of what the Volhov case represents. "It is about Russia's direct influence on Catalonia's independence process, siding with the independence process, with the aim that Russia would destabilize, first, Spanish democracy and then open the back door to the infiltration of all Western European liberal democracies," he says.


High treason

Judge Aguirre's televised interview occurs in the same week as it has become known that he has decided to extend the investigation of the case. Although the three-year-old probe appeared to be at a standstill, Aguirre has extended the investigation of the part of the Volhov case that links Puigdemont to the Russian conspiracy by another six months, arguing that there are still investigations pending.

The extension of this case occurs just as parliamentarians in the Spanish Congress are debating the amnesty lawdebating the amnesty law, and could represent a new hurdle for the president-in-exile's ability to benefit from the planned cancelling of independence process prosecutions, given that the legislative proposal does not include the crime of high treason against the state. In any case, Aguirre is unable to directly accuse Puigdemont, since, as a member of the European Parliament, he has partial immunity from prosecution. In addition, the crime of high treason would be the competence of the National Audience.

Reason for recusal 

Judge Aguirre's television appearance has already led to a response from the defence lawyer of Carles Puigdemont and his office manager, Josep Lluís Alay. Presenting an appeal against the judge's decision to extend the investigation, lawyer Gonzalo Boye criticized the appearance of the judge in the German media and warned that this will force his voluntary recusal from the case "given the unprecedented action of a judge granting interviews and speaking candidly" about a case he is investigating.

Aguirre's move comes alongside the multiple manoeuvres of judge Manuel García-Castellónprosecuting Puigdemont for terrorism in the Tsunami case, also investigating a case which seemed at a standstill, and having initiated a wide range of inquiries in the weeks since the political agreements were reached between the Spanish Socialists and Junts, in an apparent attempt to stop Puigdemont from being able to benefit from the amnesty.