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puntCAT head of IT charged with “sedition”

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2017, Domain Registries

Catalan gTLD registry puntCAT has confirmed that its head of IT, Pep Masoliver, has been arrested as part of a Spanish government crackdown on pushes for independence.

He’s been charged with “sedition” and is still in police custody this evening, a company spokesperson told DI.

His arrest coincided with the military police raid of puntCAT’s office in Barcelona that started this morning, related to a forthcoming Catalan independence referendum.

Spanish authorities had called for the registry to delete .cat domain names used to host content related to the referendum, which has been ruled illegal by the Spanish courts.

puntCAT, which had already alerted ICANN to what it characterized as the sweeping “censorship” of .cat, has now started up a social media campaign calling for Masoliver’s release.

The hashtag appears to translate as “All With You, Pep”.

Masoliver was among a dozen people arrested today by Spanish national authorities in a series of raids that have been condemned as anti-democratic.

The Guardian has a good round-up of the day’s events and local reaction.

“Sedition” isn’t a word you hear very often nowadays, particularly in democratic Western Europe, and I’m not going to pretend to have the first idea how it is treated under Spanish law.

UPDATE 1944 UTC: puntCAT issued a statement condemning the events of today in very strong terms. It’s worth quoting in its entirety.

The Fundació puntCAT wants to express its utmost condemnation, indignation and reprobation for the actions that it has been suffering lately with successive judicial mandates, searches and finally the arrest of our Director of Innovation and Information Systems, Pep Masoliver.

We are a private and non for profit foundation devoted to ensuring that Catalan – a persecuted and maltreated language – has its space in the digital world. We assist all our users with the greatest professionalism and we are a reference entity in Catalonia and in the world.

The show that we have experienced in our offices this morning has been shameful and degrading, unworthy of a civilized country. We feel helpless in the face of these immensely disproportionate facts.

We demand the immediate release of our colleague and friend.

We will continue to work for our foundational objectives as well as for the defense of freedom of expression on the Internet.

Spanish cops raid .cat registry offices in referendum censorship row

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2017, Domain Registries

Spanish police this morning raided the offices of .cat gTLD registry Fundació puntCAT, just days after demanding the company shut down any domains referring to a forthcoming referendum.

There are reports, unconfirmed by puntCAT at this time, that head of IT Pep Masoliver has been arrested in connection with the incident.

On Twitter, puntCAT said shortly after 10am local time (translation by Google Translate): “At this time @guardiacivil is performing an intervention in our offices.”

Guardia Civil is one of Spain’s various police forces.

The raid comes as the national government cracks down on a local referendum on independence for the Catalonia region.

Catalonia was to go to the polls October 1 to decide whether it should split from Spain, but the vote was recently declared illegal by Spain’s highest constitutional court.

Local government officials have reportedly been arrested this morning as part of the crackdown.

It has been reported by Spanish media that puntCAT’s head of IT Pep Masoliver was been arrested at his home.

puntCAT declined to confirm the arrest immediately, telling DI: “Our IT manager has been required for the intervention at our office.”

At the weekend, the registry wrote to ICANN to warn it that Spanish authorities had instructed it on Friday to “block all .cat domains that may contain any kind of information about the forthcoming independence referendum”.

“We are being requested to censor content and suppress freedom of speech,” the letter, which condemned the “unprecedented and absolute scope” of the order, said.

The letter was posted to Twitter in its entirety.

.cat, which is designed for people from the Catalonia region or who speak Catalan, went live in 2006 following ICANN’s 2003 round of “sponsored” gTLD applications.

It had 112,000 domains under management at the last count and a smooth growth curve that would make most new gTLD operators salivate.

As the raid happened just a couple of hours ago and appears to be ongoing, this is breaking news. I’ll provide updates throughout the day as more information emerges.

UPDATE 0950 UTC: The raid appears to have been temporarily frozen while the parties await the arrival of the court order authorizing the raid and the company’s CTO.

UPDATE 1022 UTC: Story updated to reflect reports of a puntCAT employee arrest.

UPDATE 1056 UTC: Updated with statement from puntCAT.

UPDATE 1653 UTC: Masoliver has been charged with “sedition”.