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The illegal surveillance of Catalans should worry all Europeans | European Union

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Earlier this month, a joint investigation by El Pais and The Guardian revealed that the mobile phone of the president of the Catalan regional parliament, Roger Torrent, and those of several other pro-independence politicians have been targeted with Pegasus – a spy programme developed by an Israeli company named NSO, which can only be purchased by governments and law enforcement agencies to fight crime and “terrorism”. 

While the investigation did not prove the Spanish government’s involvement in the apparent political espionage plot, a former NSO Group employee who spoke to Vice on condition of anonymity said Spain has been a client of the company since 2015. 

The revelation caused anger among Catalan politicians and activists, but it did not surprise anyone who is familiar with the Spanish state’s surveillance activities. Indeed, Madrid has long been accused of illegally spying on Catalan activists and politicians not only in the country, but throughout Europe. 

Last year, on August 11, the Swiss newspaper Blick reported that Spain has been spying on Catalans living in the country and monitoring their activities – as well as the activities of the Catalan representation in the country. The news that the Spanish secret service, the CNI, has been conducting illegal surveillance activities in the country angered both Catalan and Swiss politicians.

A month earlier, documents obtained by the Spanish daily El Diario had already revealed an extensive Spanish espionage scheme targeting the Catalan government employees working in diplomatic missions in the UK, Switzerland and Germany. 

After the scandal surfaced, British member of Parliament Hywel Williams told the House of Commons the Spanish government secretly surveilled the activities of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Catalonia (APPG) which he presides. During his address, members of Parliament in the background shouted “shame, shame” to protest Madrid’s alleged illegal activities. 

Around the same time, British press reported that Spain has also spied on the activities of Scottish members of Parliament and officials from the Scottish National Party in an attempt to prevent the Catalan government from “getting closer” to Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. 

The allegations did not come as a shock to Catalan activists working in the UK who had long been accustomed to using encrypted communication methods and paying extra attention to new, unknown faces attending their meetings to prevent the Spanish state from spying on their activities.

Members of ANC-England, the UK branch of a pro-independence Catalan non-profit organisation, told me they have known about Spain’s espionage activities in the UK since last January. An ANC-England member who talked to me on condition of anonymity said while they do not know the extent of the surveillance operation directed at their organisation, they do know that a debate organised by the APPG at the British parliament and attended by members of the Catalan parliament and other Catalan activists has been spied on by Spanish agents. 

“We suspect this was not the only event to which Spanish embassy sent informants to report back,” they added. 

I also talked to political scientist Janne Riitakorpi, the leader of the well-known Catalan pro-sovereignty movement, the Foreign Friends of Catalonia, about the allegations. He told me the latest revelations about the extent of the Spanish espionage operation against Catalan activists and politicians “shows that Spanish authorities are desperate, and fearful of the growing international support for Catalonia”.

Foreign Friends of Catalonia as an association has not been the target of espionage so far,” he added, “however, myself and Finnish member of Parliament Mikko Karna were spied on by the Spanish secret service when we organised [former Catalan President Carles] Puigdemont’s visit to Finland in March 2018.”

After this visit, Puigdemont attempted to travel by car from Finland to Belgium, where he resides. But due to a European arrest warrant against him issued by Spain, the Catalan leader was arrested in Germany, near the Danish border. He was then forced to remain in the country and wait for a local court to decide on Spain’s extradition request, which was ultimately denied. 

Sources in CNI later told Spanish media outlets that the Spanish intelligence agency had used the geolocation service on the mobile phone of at least one of Puigdemont’s companions to monitor his movements during his visit to Finland, as well as fitting a tracking device to the car the group had been travelling in. According to these reports, twelve CNI agents were involved in the operation.

Spain’s attempts to monitor the movements and activities of Puigdemont in a foreign country, without the knowledge or consent of the relevant local authorities, is clearly illegal. But the Spanish intelligence appears not concerned about breaking international laws and regulations in their pursuit of Catalan politicians, diplomats and activists. 

The Catalan government’s delegate in Germany, Marie Kapretz, who is a German citizen, also claims the Spanish government spied on her inside Germany. Kapretz told me Spanish authorities continued to track her activities in Germany from November 2017 to July 2018, even though at the time she was not even carrying out any duties as delegate due to the suspension of Catalonia’s home rule. 

She filed a criminal complaint with the country’s federal prosecutor against Spanish authorities under article 99 of Germany’s criminal code, which forbids foreign secret services from carrying out “an intelligence action against the Federal Republic of Germany.” 

In August 2019, the German prosecutor’s office accepted the case and said it would begin investigating the actions of then Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell. In December 2019, just a few months after the start of the German investigation, however, Borrell became the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. 

Borrell’s appointment as EU’s top diplomat, while an investigation into his activities as Spain’s foreign minister was still continuing, was indicative of Europe’s indifference to the Spanish state’s persecution of Catalan politicians and activists, as well as its reluctance to hold Madrid to account for its activities against the laws of the union.

After witnessing the violence the Spanish state unleashed on pro-independence activists and politicians in many Catalan cities in the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum, most Catalans expected an increase in Madrid’s repressive and authoritarian measures aimed at silencing the peaceful movement for Catalan independence.

This is why activists in Spain and across Europe were not surprised to hear the Spanish state had succumbed to illegal espionage to hinder their campaigning efforts. They, however, were not prepared for the absolute silence of the majority of European institutions before Spain’s blatantly illegal activities. 

Every Catalan activist I talked to told me while they are disheartened by Madrid’s apparent efforts to control and silence them, they are not willing to give up on their dream of independence. But their perseverance and resolve should not prevent us from acknowledging the gravity of the situation.

There is overwhelming evidence that a European state is illegally surveilling peaceful political actors across the union’s borders. Europe’s silence in the face of police violence targeted at Catalan protesters and the jailing of Catalan leaders for the sole crime of trying to act on the Catalan people’s will, already demonstrated the shaky foundations of the EU’s democratic principles. If it fails to investigate the shocking revelations that came out of the Guardian/El Pais investigation, it will be sending the message to not only Catalans but all Europeans that there is no one to protect them from the oppressive practices of their governments.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Year of the Overcomer-Prophet Elvis Mbonye

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The eagerly awaited first fellowship of controversial Prophet Elvis Mbonye left viewers shocked as he declined to issue his now famous prophecies citing a refusal to settle for the new normal. In an on online service watched by thousands, the Prophet said him prophesying would “ be a concession to gathering online, rather than physically” further stating that it is not the will of God that church should meet online!

The Covid-19 SOPs given by the government and Ministry of Health have heavily impacted gatherings and as a result, ministries with large congregations have resorted to online services. The prophet however insists that this is a ploy to diminish the influence of the Kingdom of God.

He however proceeded to give the Prophetic Word of the year , saying “This is the year of the Overcomers” amidst cheers from those present. He also stated that this would not be a “gloomy” year, probably meaning that this would be a good year. Given that many of his prophecies have actually come to pass, should we pay more attention to him? We eagerly await the prophecies this year.

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Kabuleta blasts Media over “COFIT” reporting in new rant.

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Presidential hopeful Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta has expressed dissatisfaction with the media over what he says was”alarmist reporting” over the Covid-19 pandemic which he calls “COFIT” a term we believe is a wordplay between covid and profit, a view held by many that claims that the disease was exaggerated to maximize funding and corruption. Kabuleta has come to be known for his straight shooting style and admirable command of facts and policy, even being touted as the “smartest candidate” in the race.here is the full statement:

MEDIA AND THE COFIT ENTERPRISE

By Joseph Kabuleta

“Don’t look at where you fell, but where you slipped”
AFRICAN PROVERB

We know where the media fell. They fell when they were caught in the crossfire between opposition politicians and trigger-happy security hitmen; when they were unfairly targeted as they went about their noble duty of covering this explosive elective season. Sadly, some journalists are nursing wounds; others weren’t so lucky.
But it’s important for us to understand where they slipped.

If someone is sitting by the roadside sipping on his brew and he sees a gang of people sprinting past him, as if for their lives, it’s understandable if he impulsively joins without asking questions. But if after nine months he is still sprinting, and has still not asked any questions, then there’s something terribly wrong with him.

When we first went into lockdown in March, it was probably the best course of action because we didn’t know the full extent of the Cofit threat. But in the first 90 days, it was clear to all and sundry that it was never going to rank among Uganda’s top health challenges. And that’s not my opinion.

The Daily Monitor on July 15th quoted Dr Baterana Byarugaba, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, describing the Cofit strain in the country as a mild form of flu which does not require hospital admission since it can be treated at home or in lower health facilities.
“l told Ugandans right from the beginning that the type of coronavirus we expect in Uganda is the mild one. It can be treated at health centre II, III, IV or the district hospital,” the top Medic said.

I read the story with glorious delight supposing that finally common sense, (or should I say science sense) would inform our decisions as a nation. But it’s difficult to know where science stops and politics starts. It’s become clear over the months that Cofit is not just a virus that causes respiratory problems, it’s a lot more than that; it’s a weapon in the hands of politicians that gives them power beyond their wildest dreams. In America, for instance, Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn said Cofit is a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our (leftist) vision” while actress and activist Jane Fonda said that Cofit was “God’s gift to the left.”

Our media could have taken the side of poor Ugandans by showing the immense suffering and death from preventable sicknesses that resulted from the harsh Cofit measures; they could have highlighted the plight of businesses permanently closed and workers rendered redundant and sent back to villages. They could have wondered why truck drivers were testing negative in Kenya and positive in Uganda, or wondered why Cofit deaths only started after Prophet Museveni showed us a macabre lineup of coffins in his address, or why every celebrity who dies since then is ruled as Cofit (no autopsy required)

They could have told us that according to Worldometer, Cofit has a 0.28% mortality rate (or a 99.72 survival rate) and that it doesn’t rank anywhere in the Top 10 of Uganda’s health challenges; they could have told us that a child dies of malaria every two minutes (and Uganda accounts for 3% of the world’s malaria fatalities), which means that more Ugandans die from mosquitoes in ten days than Cofit has (allegedly) killed in the nine months it’s been on our lips.

Ugandans (especially of my age) have lived through real pandemics. As a young man growing up in the early 90s, nobody had to remind me that AIDS was real. Goodness me, I knew it was! And I didn’t need police to force me to wear protection, I knew the consequences. The fact that we are constantly being reminded that ‘Cofit is real’ tells a story of its own.

The media could have asked why Uganda, with one of the lowest Cofit cases or deaths, still holds on to a 9:00pm curfew when Kenya moved to 11:00pm in September, as did South Africa and several countries. The media could have told us that Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania and, recently, Ghana all held successful elections with full blown campaigns in 2020, and we aren’t hearing people dropping dead from Cofit in any of those countries. May be they should have tried to find out if people are dropping dead in Tanzania which altogether ignored all Cofit measures and went on to acquire middle-income status while Ugandans were still in lockdown.

They could have told us about the asymptomatic Cofit patients who were filmed dancing the night away in hospital wards, or of people suffering from other diseases who dare not go to hospital because they fear to be given a fake Cofit label and held for two weeks against their will.

The media could have told us that Cofit deaths across the world have been grossly inflated. Minnesota lawmakers say Cofit deaths could have been inflated by 40% after examining death certificates (according to The Washington Examiner) while Fox News reported that in Colorado 45% of Cofit corpses “were also found to have bullet wounds”.

They could have told us that 22 European countries, all of which had tens of thousands of Cofit deaths, opened their schools in the fall, and there has not been any reported spikes in cases as a result. They could have told us that more people have been killed by security men enforcing Cofit measures than by the virus itself.

Well, they could have…but they didn’t. And that’s where they slipped.

Instead they chose to go down the path of alarmist reporting and in so doing became, inadvertently or otherwise, enablers of Uganda’s trillion-shilling Cofit enterprise. Like Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the media used flowery language to drum up fear by keeping people’s eyes transfixed on swelling numbers while the thieves carried their loot and stashed it away, and loan money was distributed among family members or used in regime prolongation.

The recent joint television news bulletin, and the adverts that followed, were the peak of hysterical reporting. “Zuukuka Tusaanawo” (wake up, we are perishing) screamed an advert featuring top media personalities. What a load of……(fill in appropriate word).

Remember, all the tyranny we have witnessed in this season has been done in the name of Cofit, and such sensationalist reporting justifies it; it gives dictators like Museveni the perfect pseudo-moralistic cover to unleash their most despotic fantasies while actually pretending that it’s for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the terror has now spread to the very media people whose hyperbole enabled it in the first place. There is such a thing as the law of cause and consequence, after all.

Instead of the media walking out of pressers and threatening to boycott government functions, let them threaten to stop all Cofit reporting. Museveni himself would come running with chocolate in hand.

If the president extended curfew by just two hours, for instance, he will have put as many as 200,000 Ugandans back to work especially in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries; but he doesn’t care, and sadly neither do many middleclass Ugandans who suppose that it’s their moral obligation as responsible citizens of the Global Village to fret over Cofit just because their ‘fellow citizens’ in Europe and America are doing so. Of course they can afford to do that because their corporate jobs have, for the most part, insulated them from the devastation of the government-instituted Cofit measures. They can enjoy working at home, beer in hand, as they listen to CNN and BBC and still expect the full complement of their salaries at the month end, and that makes them feel every bit like ‘their brothers’ overseas.

Such aspirational conformists are more likely to be offended by my stance on Cofit because they haven’t traversed crook and creek of this country and seen the damage reigned on this fragile society; not by the virus, but by the measures supposedly instituted to mitigate it.

You see, perhaps the most enduring damage this regime has done to our society is creating a three-part hierarchy of class and needs. At the zenith are a handful of connected ‘1986 generation’ and their families who feel entitled to all power and wealth. Beneath is a small (and shrinking) middleclass, and at the bottom of the pyramid is a mass of peasants. Every society, to various degrees, is ordered in the same fashion, but what makes Uganda unique is that the megalomaniacs at the top don’t give a nickel about the plight of the middleclass and the middleclass in turn don’t care a bit about the quandary of the peasant. The charlatans at the top will impose punitive taxes on the middleclass, then dip into NSSF coffers at a whim to share out their savings, and no one can stop them.

And the middleclass Ugandan, armed with his medical insurance, and safe in the knowledge that his wife is unlikely to die in child birth (20 Ugandans do EVERY DAY), and his children are very unlikely to die of malaria (20 do EVERY DAY), or from malnutrition (thousands do every year), will go around trumpeting Cofit because it’s more relevant to his status than malnutrition or malaria.

I could just as easily go down that path. I could also close my eyes to mothers failing to get breast milk because they can only afford half a meal a day (black tea with a piece of cassava), and the malnourished babies that emerge as a result; I could close my eyes to the teenage girls that were given out in marriage because schools closed, or those given out to meet family needs; I could ignore the fact that our president is opening 5-star markets in cities which have 1-star referral hospitals; I could also choose to look the other way and enjoy my middleclass lifestyle, but as an aspiring leader, I cannot.

As a leader, my aspiration is to remove the privileged/entitled class, to expand the middleclass (and their income), and to shrink the peasantry; but mostly to blur the lines that separate each category.
It doesn’t bode well for our country if the average Corporate Ugandan knows more about racism in America than about extreme poverty in Teso or Busoga because that disqualifies him/her from the solution to those local problems.

And finally, I have come to the realization that the biggest pandemic afflicting our country is poverty and the virus that causes it is called M7-1986. Vaccination against it is January 14

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge

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Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

STATEMENT
Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.

ChangeYouCanTrust

CountryBeforeSelf

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