Spanish freelance journalist Pablo González was arrested in Rzeszow, Poland by the Polish security services (ABW) on accusations of spying for Russian intelligence. If convicted of the espionage charges, he could serve up to 10 years in jail. González had been reporting from the border with Ukraine about the humanitarian crisis caused by the war and had contributed to several Spanish media. Poland’s secret services claimed he used his role as a journalist as a cover but did not publicly released evidence to support that claim. González was held incommunicado for days without access to a lawyer. González will deny the charges, his lawyer Gonzalo Boye said. Polish authorities arrested the journalist on February 28. On that day, he was due to cross the border into Ukraine with a group of reporters. The journalist, who was born in Moscow, had studied the post-Soviet space and participated in the GeopolitikaZ IT/GI podcast, in which he analyzed international politics in Eastern Europe. Before the war broke out, he travelled to Ukraine to report on rising regional tensions. The journalist was previously arrested in Ukraine on February 6 while reporting from Donbas for various Spanish media. He was contacted by Ukrainian security services and requested to come to Kyiv to be questioned. After travelling to the capital, González was interrogated for several hours and accused of being “pro-Russian”, according to Spanish reports. According to those reports, his work with the left-wing Basque newspaper Gara, the successor to the leftist and Basque nationalist newspaper Egin, was cited as the reason for the suspicions. His command of the Russian language and a credit card from Caja Laboral, a Basque credit union, were also cited as reasons for his alleged “pro-Russian” views. After questioning, González said he was “invited” to leave the country by the security services, though no formal expulsion order was issued by Ukrainian authorities. During this time, he raised his case with the Spanish embassy in Kyiv and contacted the consul general. Público carried out negotiations on his behalf with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the same time, several members of his family and friends in Spain were approached by officers from the National Intelligence Center (CNI), Spain’s main intelligence service, who questioned them about his alleged links with Russia. According to Público, some of the agents described Gara as “a pro-ETA media outlet subsidized by Russia”. They also accused the journalist of “passing information to Russia”. As the invasion of Ukraine began on February 25, González left the country and travelled to Warsaw, from where he headed back to near the border with Ukraine to cover the escalating humanitarian crisis. Since the arret, his lawyer said he had not been able to communicate directly with his client, who remains in detention. Boye told media he had been informed by Polish authorities that the arrest is linked to the previous interrogation in Ukraine. It is understood the arrest came after a follow-up request from the Ukrainian intelligence services.

1 case
28.02.2022
Europe: Poland
Arrest/charges: Arrest/detention under other laws