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Squeezed by the spooks: attempt to recruit activist as informant caught on tape
25.10.16
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A series of recordings captured earlier this year in Barcelona have exposed an attempt by two men claiming to work for "state security" to recruit a political activist as an informant.

Their target, Quim Gimeno, has filed an official complaint against the "modus operandi of the Cuerpo Nacional de Policia" (CNP) and the actions of the two men, who offered him monthly payments and the possibility of intervening in a court case involving terrorism charges (which was later dismissed due to lack of evidence).

One of the two men has subsequently been exposed as a senior officer known as 'Jordi' who works for the CNP's 'Provincial Information Brigade Group 6' (Grupo VI de la Brigada Provincial de Información), known for its surveillance and intelligence-gathering on social movements.

Pandora's box

The story begins in October 2015 - before Gimeno was first approached by the two agents - when he was arrested during the second phase of 'Operation Pandora', an "anti-terrorist" operation aimed at alleged members of the 'Coordinated Anarchist Groups' (Grupos Anarquistas Coordinados, GAC) based in Catalonia.

Along with eight others, Gimeno was charged with being a "criminal organisation with terrorist aims," although in June 2016 the cases were dismissed by the Audencia Nacional, with judges citing a lack of evidence despite eight months of investigation by the police.

The Audencia Nacional is a specialised court that deals with "crimes of the greatest gravity and social relevance" - such as terrorism, organised crime, drug trafficking and "crimes against the crown". It succeeded the Franco-era Public Order Tribunal (Tribunal de Orden Público or TOP), which was responsible for trying crimes deemed as "political" under the dictatorship.

The continuities between the two courts have been the subject of some debate amongst academics and activists in Spain, and Gimeno was speaking at a public event on this very topic in January 2016 when he was approached by a man claiming to be a journalist.

Specialising in security

The man who approached Gimeno introduced himself by a name with the initials 'DSG' (the full name he used has not been made public) and said that he was a journalist specialising in security issues for the press agency EFE. He expressed an interest in Gimeno's case and suggested they meet to talk about it in more detail.

The activist has said that while he was suspicious of the "journalist" from the off, he decided to meet with him to find out more. Their first meeting took place in February at a bar in the centre of Barcelona, where DSG's line of questioning did nothing to ease Gimeno's suspicions over his true identity:

"He kept coming back round to asking me if there were violent elements in Barcelona, and if they had any kind of relation with my cause... Always trying to put himself on my side: 'They can fuck up your project' and 'They'll spread rumours about you', he said to me."

He also asked whether any state agencies "had their claws in him", showing significant interest in whether the Mossos de Esquadra (Catalan federal police) or the Guardia Civil (the national gendarmerie force) had made any contact with him.

Watching the watchers

Gimeno subsequently contacted journalists at La Directa (the paper which broke the story back in April) who decided to document the meetings between the two. [1] The next was on 3 March, and by this point DSG was less interested in talking about journalism. Instead, according to Gimeno, he:

"asserted that he received a fixed salary from the state and an extra as a journalist. He also assured me that he could give me money in return for information… [I] wanted to play the role of somebody who would like to collaborate, but didn't quite understand things clearly, which meant another meeting was set up for the 4 April."

DSG phoned and promised bring his superior, "to show that it's no bluff." The activist and the "journalist" were thus joined by 'TM', the latter's supposed boss.

According to La Directa, the recording of the meeting demonstrates TM's senior role: he led the conversation, with DSG chipping in now and again. At one point, Gimeno asked the superior: "To whom are you referring when you say 'us'?" "State security," came the response.

The right profile

The issue of Gimeno's "profile" - young and active in primarily anarchist movements and organisations centred around Barcelona's squats and social centres - came up numerous times. "They assured me that they needed people with my profile to obtain information and they offered me compensation, giving me very clear instructions," Gimeno recalled to La Directa.

In the words of TM:

"You have all the availability, the facility of entering into those things because you're one of them, one of their own. You don't have that difficulty (…). We appreciate it, in people like you, that the work you do in five days, would take us a year."

One space explicitly named by the two members of "state security" was the social centre Ateneu La Base, in Barcelona's Poble Sec neighbourhood. The two agents were reportedly interested in anyone and everyone who went in and out:

"If they have a key and open and close [the space], if they visit often or not, if they're behind a campaign or not, if they're active or inactive, if they go to have a drink or to work… You now these things first hand."

It was also recommended that Gimeno try to extract information from third parties: "People that you know, friends that you have. Take advantage of a campaign… a group, a concert, a café, a vegan dinner…" [2] The social centre subsequently denounced the agents' efforts. [3]

"Words can be had with a prosecutor"

After hearing nothing for a week, Gimeno called DSG. They arranged another meeting for 11 April and discussed various aspects of the proposed relationship. Gimeno recorded the conversation, during which DSG said that:

"What I wanted from TM's visit was for you to see that there is a reality: I have all of the mechanisms to come by people that are in places of interest... I wanted you to see with your own eyes that I wasn't making things up, that's not the way I work."

At the 11 April meeting, TM set out the terms and conditions:

"We offer you an economic compensation. What happens is that this economic compensation will have a fixed part... And afterwards it depends on the relevance of the information you can give us, this concerns the operation that we're going to do; if it's useful to us, you will have a type of economic improvement. In principle, we can give you 200 or 250 euros to get you started."

It was not just money that was on offer. TM also raised the possibility of seeking improvements in Gimeno's pending court case:

"The prosecutor is a fucking functionary, with all due respect, hierarchical, with bosses, that depends on the government, in this case, the administration of the central government, the government of Spain. Words can be had with a prosecutor but with a judge no."

Security concerns

They moved on to how to proceed with the "work" on offer, with the journalist discussing communications security:

"The principal channel of communications is the post. During these two weeks, whatever thing that comes to you, whatever doubt you have, whatever thing. You reply by post. After, the week that we meet, I'll bring you a mobile. The new number will be the channel of urgent communication between us."

They agreed to meet again between the 25 and 29 of April, but they never did. Gimeno decided not to pursue the relationship any further:

"From the moment that I knew it was all to do with the state, I wanted to make it public. On the one hand, making it public is a way of dealing with the situation and, on the other, it's a political tool… against the wave of repression around us."

Cause for complaint

As well as exposing the two supposed agents' activities in the press, Gimeno decided to file a formal complaint. At a press conference in April, he said: "I am calling on all the people in a situation similar to me to publicly denounce this type of activity by the powers of the state."

Andrés Garcia Berrio, Gimeno's lawyer and a member of the human rights organisation Irídia (link), said that since his arrest as part of Operation Pandora, Gimeno had been subjected to "psychological intimidation" by the police.

Acknowledging that while there are clear legal possibilities for the police to recruit informers, Berrio argued that Gimeno's case was different, representing "a clear breach of individual liberty" due to his pending court case and the offers made by the supposed agents to "have words" with the prosecutor. [4] The use of "pressure and coercion against a person… to restrict their liberty and make them do things they don't want to," is not permitted by law, Berrio argued. [5]

The press conference organised to present the complaint also served to expose the identity of one of the two "state security" agents, who has been in the public eye previously. 'DSG' is better known to many as 'Jordi'; he is an inspector with a police unit known as 'Provicial Information Brigade Group 6' (Grupo 6 de la Brigada Provincial de la Información), one of many such provincial groups that are part of the national police (CNP). An article in La Directa that collected testimonies from people who have been approached by 'Jordi' referred to him as "the black beast of social movements". [6]

David Fernandez, a journalist and former parliamentarian for the left-wing Catalan nationalist party CUP (Candidatura d'Unitat Popular¸ Popular Unity Candidacy), was present at the press conference. He is the author of a book on the unit, and he confirmed that the man photographed by La Directa was the same man who has spent "17 years disrupting the intimacy and privacy of people in social movements." (He also featured on the cover of La Directa eight years ago, Fernandez noted.) [7]

Gimeno is just one of the most recent targets of a unit that Fernandez argued in his book is:

"[A] group specialised in political and social dissent, created and developed by the Partido Popular… They are functionaries, paid for with our money, that carry out the tasks with which they have been entrusted… to discipline, suppress, and keep social struggles on a tight leash." [8]

As yet, the complaint has led to no official statement or action.

Sources
[1] Maties Lorente, Jesús Rodríguez, '
"Captaràs informació de l'entorn dels casals del Poble-sec"', La Directa, 19 April 2016; information here is taken from a Spanish translation of La Directa's original Catalan article: '"Captarás información del entorno de los casales del Poble Sec"', Diagonal, 19 April 2016
[2] '
'Jordi', uno de los agentes captadores de confidentes o "la bestia negra de los movimientos sociales"', Público, 20 April 2016
[3] '
No es tracta només de nosaltres', La Base, 20 April 2016
[4] '
'Jordi', uno de los agentes captadores de confidentes o "la bestia negra de los movimientos sociales"', Público, 20 April 2016
[5] João França, '
Denuncia por coacciones a agentes de Policía Nacional por captar infiltrados en movimientos sociales', El Diario, 20 April 2016
[6] David Bou, '
Divuit anys rere l’ombra allargada de 'Jordi'', La Directa, 19 April 2016
[7] João França, '
Denuncia por coacciones a agentes de Policía Nacional por captar infiltrados en movimientos sociales', El Diario, 20 April 2016
[8] David Fernandez, '
Crónicas del 6', Nodo 50, 25 January 2009

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