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Spain's spycop operations prompt international condemnation

Bethany Rielly

Home affairs reporter, in Barcelona 

BRITISH rights groups are among 88 organisations worldwide that signed a statement today condemning Spain’s undercover policing operations against political activists. 

Barcelona was shaken last month after journalists unmasked a second police spy embedded in the city’s left-wing movements. 

The Spanish National Police Corps officer, who used the alias “Dani,” infiltrated anarchist and community groups in Barcelona from May 2020 to October 2022, according to an investigation by Catalan publication La Directa.

During that time he is said to have deceived at least eight women into sexual encounters, two of whom had relationships with him, drawing striking parallels with Britain’s spycops scandal. 

Five of the women have since filed a law suit against the Spanish government over sexual abuse and human rights violations. 

The unmasking of “Dani” comes after another police spy, known as “Marc,” was exposed in June 2022 as having infiltrated pro-independence and housing rights groups in Barcelona. 

The shocking cases have prompted widespread condemnation inside and outside of Spain, with dozens of civil society groups backing a statement on Thursday demanding that the Spanish state properly investigate the reports and hold those responsible to account. 

At a press conference in Barcelona that morning, Anais Franquesa, a lawyer from the Barcelona-based human rights group Iridia, which is supporting the legal action by the five women, said the police operations had caused “irreparable damage” to victims. 

“This damage can only be repaired partially through a real process of accountability and transparency for the people affected,” she said. 

The statement describes the sexual relationship instigated by the officer as “institutional violence.” 

It reads: “The Spanish state has crossed a line in terms of the violation of fundamental rights, exploiting intimate and sexual relationships to monitor political dissent.”

Police Spies Out of Lives, a group representing women deceived into intimate relationships by undercover officers in Britain, is among the signatories. 

One of the group’s members, known by the pseudonym “Lindsay,” appeared at the conference via videolink to give a message of solidarity to the women and activists affected by spying in Spain.

“We want you to know we are here for you and we’re eager to share information from our struggles over the past 12 years in the hope that some of the hardest battles ahead of you might be shortened by our experiences,” she said. 

“We will continue this fight together with you to end these abusive and illegal infiltrations entirely.”

The spycops scandal refers to the industrial-scale police infiltration of more than 1,000 political groups over four decades in Britain. It’s thought that at least 50 activists were tricked into intimate relationships with officers. 

Other signatories of the letter include the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance, the Undercover Research Group, Netpol, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Big Brother Watch. 

The groups also call on the Spanish government to cease all similar police operations and set up safeguards to ensure they are not repeated. 

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