|Part of the Catalan independence referendum, 2017 , the 2017 Spanish constitutional crisis and the 2012–present Catalan independence movement|
Crowd in front of the Department of Economy after the arrests
|Date||20 September 2017|
|Goals||Prevent the 2017 Catalan referendum of independence|
|Parties to the civil conflict|
The Operation Anubis was a police operation in Catalonia (Spain), initiated on 20 September 2017 by the Civil Guard following orders of the trial court number 13 of Barcelona, directed by judge Juan Antonio Ramírez Sunyer. Its aim was to dismantle the framework of the Catalan independence referendum of 1 October 2017, that was suspended on 6 September 2017 by the Constitutional Court of Spain as breaching the 1978 Constitution. Different headquarters of the Generalitat de Catalunya were searched and 14 people were arrested, including high ranking administrative staff, and company CEO's involved in the preparation of the referendum. Simultaneously, several printing companies were searched looking for ballot papers and ballot boxes.
Crowds gathered around Catalan regional ministries to support those arrested and protest against the searches. About 40,000 demonstrators surrounded the Catalan economy department heeding a call made by pro-independence groups Òmnium Cultural and ANC, preventing the exit of the Civil Guard agents. They smashed up several vehicles of the Civil Guard and left some agents trapped all night inside the building. Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart—leaders of ANC and Òmnium Cultural— and the Mossos d'Esquadra Major Josep Lluís Trapero Álvarez have been accused of sedition, a felony regulated by the article 544 and subsequents of the Spanish Criminal Code, for allegedly encouraging protesters to hinder the Spanish police raids to dismantle the framework of the referendum. Sànchez and Cuixart have been provisionally put into jail without bail pending the investigation.
The investigation started due a complaint presented at the trial court number 13 of Barcelona by the political party Vox and an anonymous complainant, in response to a claim from Catalan judge and politician Santiago Vidal assuring that preparations for the referendum were underway.
Following a judge’s orders, on the morning of 20 September 2017 several units of the Spanish Civil Guard raided 41 locations, including: the headquarters of the Vice President of Catalonia, the regional ministries of economy, foreign affairs, social affairs and family, the tax agency of Catalonia, the consortium of open administration of Catalonia, the Catalan Institute of Finance, the dotCAT Foundation, private houses of Catalan government officials and one printing company. Spanish officers claimed to have seized 9.6 million ballot papers in the raids.
Officers of the National Police Corps went to the headquarters of the Popular Unity Candidacy party, in Casp street, Barcelona, but were prevented from searching the CUP offices due to not having a court order. The police deployment lasted eight hours until they finally left without searching the building or arresting anyone.
On the same day, the Spanish government announced that they were sending two ships to Barcelona and one to Tarragona to allocate Spanish police reinforcements deployed from other places of Spain. The first ship to arrive in Barcelona was the Rhapsody, from an Italian shipping company, followed by the MS Moby Dada, also Italian. The ship that docked in Tarragona was named GNV Azzurra. The three ships had a capacity of 6,600.
During these raids the Spanish Civil Guard arrested 14 people, most of them high-ranking members from the Generalitat of Catalonia, but also CEOs of private companies or just administrative staff.
As the searches began, crowds gathered outside the buildings being raided by the Spanish Civil Guard; namely the headquarters of the Department of Economy, in Rambla Catalunya, and the Department of External Affairs, in Via Laietana. Civil pro-independence called for "peaceful resistance" in front of buildings being searched. A crowd of more than 40,000 people surrounded the Catalan economy department heeding a call made by Òmnium Cultural and ANC, preventing the exit of the Civil Guard agents. Demonstrators smashed up several vehicles of the Civil Guard and their occupants were forced to flee into the Economy Department building, a court clerk remained trapped until midnight inside the building and had to flee by the roof, while several agents were trapped throughout the night as demonstrators shouted outside "You won't get out!". The damages in the vehicles (3 Nissan Patrol) accounted for 135,632 €.  The Civil Guard agents cornered into the builiding made 6 calls for help to the autonomous police force of Catalonia Mossos d'Esquadra, which were ignored. The first request for help was at 9:14 am with the subject: "Urgent - Request for support to Mossos".
By midday the crowd gathered in Rambla Catalunya forcing the closure of the Gran Via. Later on 20 September multiple protests across Catalonia, were underway; including cacerolazo during the night. Several Spanish cities also organised demonstrations against the police operations.
On 21 September 2017, the President of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, publicly announced on Twitter the referendum information webpage had been re-uploaded and gave polling station information and directions. The previous webpage shut down six days after launching, after being declared illegal in court.
The Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural organised a demonstration in Passeig de Lluís Companys in front of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia calling for the release of those, while carrying signs reading "Stop dictatorship" and "We want to vote". During the demonstrations several politicians and public figures spoke and asked the people to continue in permanent mobilisation to defend the institutions of Catalonia.
On the same day, the stevedores and dockworkers of the Port of Barcelona and Port of Tarragona refused to work for the ships that housed the Spanish police after a trade union vote that morning.
University students in some areas abandoned their classes and disrupted traffic on Avinguda Diagonal and joined demonstrations in front of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia. In a separate protest by students traffic on Gran Via, at the old building of the University of Barcelona, was disrupted.
In front of the headquarters of the Spanish Civil Guard in Passeig de Gràcia a demonstration of 150 people shouted slogans in favour of the police operation, in favour of remaining unified with Spain, or against the independence referendum. During the demonstration there were clashes with the Mossos d'Esquadra when the protesters tried to stop the traffic.
An open letter from several members of all parties in the UK parliament expressed their concern "by the measures taken by the Spanish government to prevent the referendum". An additional open letter from over a hundred academics of law, human rights and related subjects from the UK and Ireland expressed the same level of concern about the fact "that the level of political repression in Catalonia is of a severity and arbitrary character not experienced since the Franco dictatorship". The Regional Council of Sardinia also unanimously approved a motion on 21 September 2017 expressing solidarity with Catalonia and offering to print and store the necessary ballots for the referendum while asking the international community to intervene and ensure that Catalans could vote and decide on their self-determination.
On Friday 22 September, Spanish State Attorney General's office filed a complaint for sedition against the leaders of Catalan National Assembly and Òmnium Cultural, Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, accused of having played central roles in orchestrating massive protests aimed at hindering Civil Guard activity. This offence can be punished with sentences of up to 15 years of prison. The investigating judge stated that the leaders did not call for "peaceful demonstration but to the protection of Catalan officials through 'massive citizens' mobilisations" and that Jordi Sànchez, on top of a vehicle, encouraged the demonstrators with expressions such as "no one goes home, it will be a long and intense night". According to the judge the actions of Sànchez and Cruixat are within the scope of sedition, a felony regulated by the article 544 and subsequents of the Spanish Criminal Code:
Conviction for sedition shall befall those who, without being included in the felony of rebellion, public and tumultuously rise up to prevent, by force or outside the legal channels, application of the laws, or any authority, official corporation or public officer from lawful exercise of the duties thereof or implementation of the resolutions thereof, or of administrative or judicial resolutions.— Article 544 of the Spanish Criminal Code.
Pro-referendum students from the University of Barcelona occupied the historical building of the university, which is currently used by the faculties of mathematics and philology. In Girona, Tarragona and Lleida there were more student demonstrations in defence of democracy organised by the local Universities.
Later that day, the trial court number 13 finally released all the remaining politicians arrested on 20 September 2017. They were freed with charges but were not accused of sedition. Even though they were released, due to a public prosecutor petition, they will have to appear before the court every week while the probe continues. Around 2,000 people were waiting outside and received them with slogans and chants. At 6pm a new demonstration in front of the High Court of Justice was organised to celebrate their release.
Accusations of sedition
Finally, on October 16 both Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez where imprisoned accused of sedition. They are in Soto del Real Prison.
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- Catalan self-determination referendum, 2014
- Declaration of the Initiation of the Process of Independence of Catalonia
- National Day for Yes
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