Spanish Journalist Marks 100 Days in Prison on Spy Claim

 It was a moment Pablo González’s family had been longing for: a letter from the Spanish journalist imprisoned in Poland for 100 days on accusations of spying for Russia.

“It was a thrill and a present for me and our three children,” González’s wife, Oihana Goiriena, told VOA.

The four-page letter, which arrived last week, was the first contact the family has had with González since his arrest in February.

Poland’s secret service alleges he used his role as a journalist as a cover for espionage, but officials have not publicly disclosed any supporting evidence. González denies the accusation.

The journalist’s family has links to Russia because his father moved there as a child after the Spanish Civil War. But González is not part of Russia’s secret intelligence service, his Spanish lawyer Gonzalo Boye said.

A court in Poland last month ordered González to remain in custody for a second three-month period. Under Polish law, he can be held for up to a year. If convicted, he could be jailed for 10 years.

Bartosz Rogala, a Polish lawyer appointed to González at the request of the Spanish government, said that under Polish law, he is not permitted to reveal the reasons that González is being held longer.

“The arrest hearing was part of the preparatory proceedings (for trial) and therefore remains classified,” Rogala told El Español, a Spanish online news site.

The lawyer said González will appeal the detention.

Rogala can communicate with González, but Polish authorities have denied the journalist telephone calls or visits from his Spanish lawyer. He is in a jail located about 400 km from the capital, Warsaw.

“Pablo has not been allowed any (physical) contact with his family nor his lawyer. The Spanish consul has seen him three times,” Boye told VOA. “He is being held with one other man in a cell. He is no longer in solitary confinement. He is OK, but he is missing his family.”

González was arrested on February 28 when crossing from Poland into Ukraine, where he had been reporting the start of the Russian invasion.

Ukrainian secret service officials had earlier detained González and accused him of spying for Russia, which he denied. He returned to Spain for a few days before leaving for Poland.

International rights organizations and commentators have criticized how Poland, a European Union nation, handled the case, and demanded that González be afforded due process and rights. 

In an opinion piece, Enric González, a columnist for the center-left Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, likened the treatment to that of inmates in Guantanamo Bay, where the U.S. government kept terror suspects without charges for lengthy periods. The lawyer is not related to Pablo.

In Spain, a campaign led by friends, journalists and television presenters called #FreePabloGonzález marked the 100th day of his detention on Tuesday.

More than 40,600 people signed a petition calling for the release of the experienced war reporter. 

González, 40, has covered conflicts in Ukraine and Syria for various outlets including the left-wing Spanish paper Publico and Gara, a Basque nationalist newspaper. He also provided some camera work for VOA in 2020 and 2021.

The news that he would be held for another three months was a blow to his family, who live in the Basque Country in northern Spain. But the family’s first letter from González, which arrived May 31, lifted spirits, his wife said. 

“The letter was dated April 9, so he congratulated our youngest, who is 7, for his birthday. Said he missed us all very much, and thanked his family and friends and supporters for all the help they have given him,” Goiriena said.

“Pablo said he was OK but has lost a lot of weight. He wrote a few anecdotes about his childhood and told us what he was doing. He is reading a lot, doing exercise, and things are a bit better. He says (the spying allegations) is something that will pass,” Goiriena said.

Goiriena sent a package to her husband in prison containing books on the Basque language and a National Geographic magazine but said she first must have the list of contents translated into Polish.

González has received one letter from his wife, which she sent in March. It was written in Spanish and must be translated and examined by the Polish prosecutor.

Letters from Boye must also be translated and seen by the prosecutor.

 “This is in case they have secret messages to (Russian President) Putin,” jokes Goiriena. “This is not a laughing matter, but you have to laugh or you would cry.”

 Osoigo, a Spanish campaign group, has called on lawmakers to campaign for González.

“Pablo is a Spanish journalist who has been detained and held incommunicado (while accused of spying) and cannot speak with his lawyer or his family. That is why we are campaigning,” Yolanda Llamas of Osoigo told VOA.

For those campaigning for González’s release, his treatment in Poland has been shocking.

In May, Enric González wrote in El Pais, “I ignore whether he has spied or not, (he would not be the first journalist to do so, the frontier between both jobs is clouded), or if he is innocent. But it seems to me that in the European Union, there should not be situations similar to Guantanamo (Bay).”

Amnesty International supported the campaign to free González, tweeting: “We demand that his right to a fair process and due guarantees be respected, allowing him access to a lawyer of his free choice and to communicate with his family.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told parliament last month that the foreign minister had been in contact with his Polish counterpart over the case.

A spokesperson for Spain’s Foreign Ministry told VOA, “Our consul has visited him three times. We made sure that he had a local lawyer, and our ambassador in Poland is following the case carefully.”

The Spanish Defense Ministry, which has responsibility for the intelligence services, declined to comment on the matter.

VOA asked the Polish embassy in Madrid for comment but received no response.

Following González’s arrest, VOA issued a statement saying it was aware of his arrest and has removed some of the content filed by him “out of an abundance of caution.”

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