The Court of First Instance in Brussels has found that the journalist Marcos Lamelas, of the newspaper El Confidencial, defamed and libelled Plataforma per la Llengua and Marga Payola, a member of the organisation's executive. The accusation was presented at a court in Brussels because Lamelas' news items libelled Plataforma per la Llengua Europa, which is the organisation the Catalan NGO has in Belgium. In his articles, Lamelas accused Plataforma per la Llengua Europa and Marga Payola of misusing public funds to finance Carles Puigdemont's exile in Belgium with money the organisation receives in subsidies. But Plataforma per la Llengua has shown before the Belgian judge that these statements are false, using information taken from bank accounts and invoices belonging to the Catalan NGO.
The court considered the fact that the journalist should have published accusations of this seriousness without checking them to be an aggravating factor. The Belgian judge therefore held that the publication of these articles in El Confidencial and on its social media had damaged the organisation's image and credibility. In fact, social media filled with negative comments about Catalan culture. Various Ciutadans MPs also spread the defamation in the Parliament of Catalonia.
Lamelas' two articles were headlined: "El gran lobby del catalán abrió en secreto una filial belga tras los pasos de Puigdemont" (A big Catalan lobby has followed in Puigdemont's footsteps and secretly opened a branch in Belgium) (2 February 2020) and "Plataforma per la Llengua ya es la principal asociación de apoyo a Puigdemont en Bélgica" (Plataforma per la Llengua is now Puigdemont's main support organisation in Belgium) (8 June 2020) Plataforma per la Llengua asked for only one euro in damages from Lamelas, but it is demanding that El Confidencial and all those who gave credibility to the false reports by the journalist make corrections and publicise the court's verdict upholding the claims of libel and defamation.
Plataforma per la Llengua Europa and its lawyers Christophe Marchand and Manon Libert, said they were pleased with the court's decision. The organisation encouraged everyone to report this hate crime against those who want to work to promote the Catalan language. In similar cases brought by Plataforma per la Llengua in the Spanish courts, the allegations of defamation were not upheld. The organisation hopes that the jurisprudence created around this new case is heeded from now on.