The Spanish state and its police force is caught up in a Spycops scandal. Women have accused an undercover police officer of sexual abuse, after he infiltrated activist groups. Another cop has been found to have been spying on protesters. Now, a third case in Spain has been reported. This should all sound very familiar – as it reeks of what happened in the UK.
Spain’s own Spycops
Six women have alleged that an undercover police officer sexually abused them. The cop reportedly infiltrated far-left and green groups. He coerced the women to have sex with him to win their trust and gain information. One woman says the officer abused her for nearly a year. They all argue their sexual consent was obtained on the basis of lies. As El Nacional reported, the cop went by the name Daniel Hernández Pons. He:
was 31 years old and applied himself conscientiously to the role; he had tattoos, dyed his hair and was well-educated in the cause, especially in libertarian and anarchist issues. His entry point was the gym of a busy squatter social centre, from where he built a character who gained the trust of other activists, according to La Directa. He began to have a social life and gradually joined groups and became just one more member of the ecosystem of these alternative left groups in the city of Barcelona. He even got to be responsible for the keys to some squatted premises and social centres…
However, this was not the only case. El Nacional noted that in 2022:
it emerged that an officer originally from the Balearic Islands had been able to infiltrate social groups such as the Catalan countries students’ union (SEPC) and the Jovent Republicanà – the ERC party’s youth division – posing as an activist despite being, in reality, a newly-graduated Spanish police officer.
This cop went by the name Marc Hernàndez Pon. However, in these cases people have so far not come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against him. But now, the scandal has further deepened. The Madrid branch of Extinction Rebellion said last week it had been infiltrated by a female police officer. It alleged that she “had sexual relations with at least one of its members”. Moreover, all this comes after Spain’s central government admitted last year that it spied on the mobile phones of 18 Catalan separatist leaders. It used Israeli spyware Pegasus.
“Disgusted and helpless”
The undercover cops revelations are in the public domain thanks to Catalan media outlet La Directa. It interviewed one of the survivors of the cops’ alleged abuse. She told La Directa that the experience:
has caused me a lot of fear and anxiety. Now, when I see a policeman I get very nervous, and it has also affected my confidence. I have felt very used, she has used us as women and as activists, and this makes me feel very disgusted and helpless. If he wanted to investigate us, which I think would be just as serious, there was no need for him to generate such intense relationships, he has done many things that were not necessary.
One of the women’s lawyers is Mireia Salazar. She told Agence France-Press (AFP) the goal of the complaint was “to know how far these practices go, which in our opinion, have no legal justification.” Meanwhile, politicians have begun to ask questions. Gabriel Rufian, a top lawmaker with Catalan separatist party ERC asked Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez:
Where is your moral limit, where is your ethical limit? It is not just a threat to political freedoms, ideological freedoms, but also – it seems – sexual freedoms.
Coalition party Podemos‘s secretary of state of equality Angela Rodriguez said:
It is violence against women… And I think that the sooner that we know what happened and justice can be done, the better it will be for the reputation of security agencies.
UK undercover policing: writing the manual?
Of course, the situation in Spain has echoes of the UK Spycops scandal. As the Canary has documented, this extensive scandal has been ongoing for years – since at least 2003. Tom Coburg previously wrote about Mark Kennedy, one of the cops central to the scandal. He sexually abused several women as an undercover officer (UCO). Coburg noted that:
At least two UCOs are known to have fathered children with women activists. Other UCOs known to have used sex to gather intelligence include ‘Carlo Neri’, Andy Coles (‘Andy Davey’) and ‘Vince Miller‘. Miller deceived and had sex with four women, including ‘Madeleine’.
He also noted that:
Kennedy is known to have spied on several protest groups, most of which were environmental groups. His undercover work was prolific and took place in England as well as Scotland, Northern Ireland, Germany, Denmark, France, the USA, and Iceland.
Currently, there is an inquiry in the UK over the Spycops scandal. 27 women are giving evidence. However, as one of the survivors of Kennedy’s abuse, Kate Wilson, wrote for the Guardian, the Spycops scandal runs far deeper:
These [undercover] police units illegally blacklisted trade union activists, and they spied on elected politicians, the families of victims of police violence and many campaign or protest groups. They used the identities of dead children with no thought for their families, they violated lawyer-client privilege and caused countless miscarriages of justice, and they sexually abused women.
Police: functioning how they’re designed to
Now, the Spanish state appears to have been copying the UK’s grotesque lead. As one of the survivors of Daniel Hernández Pons‘s abuse told La Directa:
It’s hard for me to understand that level of involvement in people’s lives and it reminds me of his insistence on being with me, his insistence that he loved me and wanted to be in a relationship. He actually got to meet my parents and my sister. If I had known he was a cop, I would never have had a relationship with him… Nothing justifies the State and the police interfering in my life. I feel like I’ve been raped, I’ve been with someone I now realize I didn’t know and it creates a lot of fear.
As always, this emerging information from Spain shows that this is not some ‘bad apple’ incident. The global system of policing is designed for this purpose – to protect the state and its interests at all costs. In the case of Spanish and UK Spycops, this involves sexual abuse and rampant misogyny. Meanwhile, with the UK’s Metropolitan Police, it uses institutionalised anti-Blackness, racism, and homophobia as well, to carry out its functions. So, the problem is the same the world over. How Spain deals with this latest iteration of police violence will be closely watched.
Featured image and additional reporting via Agence France-Presse