Prison sentence extended for Spanish journalist allegedly Russian spy

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A Spanish war reporter accused of spying for Russia is to remain in pre-trial detention for three months without access to his family or a lawyer, a Polish court ruled this week.

Pablo González, who has dual Spanish-Russian nationality, has been detained since February in a Polish prison about 400 km from Warsaw for spying on behalf of Russia. He denies the allegations.

A Polish court ruled Wednesday that González should remain in custody for a second three-month term. According to Polish law, he could be detained for up to a year. If convicted of espionage, he could be jailed for up to 10 years.

His Spanish lawyer, Gonzalo Boye, said access to the prosecution case was limited.

International media rights organizations have protested the treatment of González, who reported from Ukraine, Syria and other conflict zones.

FILE – People stand behind a banner reading ‘Freedom for our neighbor Pablo Gonzalez. Freedom of the press’, during a protest, after Gonzalez was arrested by Polish authorities for spying, in Nabarniz, Spain, on 6 March 2022.

Gonzalez did camera work for VOA in 2020 and 2021.

“Out of an abundance of caution, VOA has removed some of the content submitted by Gonzalez for review,” VOA said in a statement.

The Global Independent Media Network tweeted: “This decision to extend the pretrial detention of Spanish journalist @PabVis is deeply problematic. The IPI urges the Polish authorities to act more transparently and immediately justify the decision.”

The organization said González’s detention had been characterized by “a lack of transparency and lack of access to legal assistance”.

In Spain, a campaign by friends, journalists and TV presenters has begun. Called #FreePabloGonzález, it demands that Poland drop the charges and release the journalist from custody.

More than 30,000 people have signed a petition calling for his release.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told the country’s parliament last month that the foreign minister had been in contact with his Polish counterpart about González’s case.

Poland’s secret service claims he used his role as a journalist as a cover for espionage, but officials have not publicly released any supporting evidence.

González will deny that claim, Boye said. Although his family has ties to Russia because his father moved there as a child after the Spanish Civil War, González is not on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s secret service, Boye said.

“Pablo was not allowed any contact with his family or his lawyer. The Spanish consul saw him four times,” Boye told VOA. “He is being held with another man in a cell. He is no longer in solitary confinement. He is fine, but he misses his family.”

The news that González is expected to stay in prison for at least three more months has been hard on his family, his wife, Oihana Goiriena, told VOA.

“So far our three boys, ages 14, 10 and 7, have taken it well as they are used to their dad being away for work,” she said from their home in a village in the Basque country in northern Spain.

“But when I had to tell them he wasn’t coming home they were very depressed. He’s already missed two of the boys’ birthdays – and his own. It was his 40th birthday and he was in a cell from prison.”

González was arrested on February 28 as he traveled through Poland to Ukraine, where he had signaled the start of the Russian invasion.

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

A spokesman for the Spanish Foreign Ministry told VOA: “We have granted consular assistance to González.”

Spain’s defense ministry, which is responsible for intelligence services, declined to comment on the matter.

VOA asked the Polish Embassy in Madrid for comment on the case but received no response.

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