Belgium’s judiciary has ordered new investigations over the alleged espionage on the exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont. A court in Brussels had elected to drop a case involving tracking advices that were found on the politician’s car, which he claimed to be evidence that Spain’s secret services had been spying on him.
Puigdemont appealed against the decision, and on Thursday the appeals court of the Belgian capital sided with him and ordered new investigations on the case, as announced by the former president’s lawyers on Twitter. The court ordered the questioning of a representative for the Italian company selling the tracking devices found.
Identifying the users of some phones mentioned in the investigation and cross-examining three members of companies some parts of the devices will also be among the judges’ priorities to move forward in the case.
A Catalan police officer guarding Puigdemont spotted a tracking device in a vehicle used by the former president on February 7, 2018, specifically stuck under the rear bumper. The next day, Belgian police spotted a second device in the engine of another vehicle used by Junts per Catalunya party’s leader.
These kinds of devices work with a SIM card that communicates with mobile phones and other devices. Altogether eight SIM cards –all with British numbers– were in touch with the two trackers. These cards were used in devices that included three Alcatel phones.
Spanish prosecutor alleged links
A prosecutor in Spain’s National Court may have been linked to the alleged “unofficial” espionage plot, according to the Belgian investigation. One call using one of these SIM cards was to the switchboard of a hotel chain in Brussels on February 1, 2018 –the same chain where the prosecutor and the other individuals stayed.
According to the investigation, this “proves without doubt” that the hotel was involved in the case. However, a judge has considered this is not enough to demand the prosecutor to explain why he was in Belgium. The prosecutor, Carlos Bautista Samaniego, is regarded as one of Spain’s top experts in European arrest warrants.
Shortly after the revelations, Samaniego denied them. In fact, the prosecutor confirmed he spent some nights in the hotel, but said that the reason was a European antiterrorist meeting called Jupitter (Judges Prosecutors Involved in Tackling Terrorism). “The invite to give a talk on good practice [on antiterrorism] was made by the Belgian federal prosecutor” said Samaniego. He added that all eight attendees of the Jupitter gathering stayed in the same hotel.