Spanish abuse of the youths from Altsasu– 500 days in prison with no trial

Catalan MonitorNews Roundup

Photo: Protests in support of the detained (Credit: Vilaweb)

By VilaWeb Staff Writers
From 28th March, 2018

At five in the morning of October 15th, 2016, there was a brawl outside the Altsasu bar in Navarra. Two off-duty Civil Guard agents and their partners were injured. A month later, eight of those who participated in the brawl were accused of terrorism by the public prosecutor and were jailed by order of the Spanish Court. 500 days on, and three of them are still in prison, having so far had no trial (it won’t begin until April 16th), locked in prisons hundreds of miles from home. Basque Society has been mobilizing in the last months to protest against one of the most flagrant cases of violation of rights of the many who are suffering under the Spanish justice system these days.

Oihan Arnanz, Jokin Unamuno, Adur Martínez de Alda are the men in question. The other five young people originally arrested were released under caution until trial. The bar near where the incident occurred was frequented by the Ospa Movement group, a group opposed to the presence of police forces from the Spanish state in Navarra. The circumstances of the events of that night are not clear, starting with the supposed “organized lynch mob” attack that the national agents were subjected to, and that their partners say they suffered.

According to them, fifty people attacked them in a coordinated way. One ended up with a broken ankle. However, witnesses at the bar affirm that the police were the ones who provoked the fight with verbal attacks, having made statements like: ‘We’ll kill you’ and ‘We’ll put a bullet between your eyes’.

The Policia Foral (Navarra police force) entered the bar and only one of the partners of the Civil Guard agents agreed to give their version of the events. The rest alleged ‘distrust’ towards the local police body and refused to make any statements. Two people were detained at the time, as a result of the brawl, and were later released pending charges.

No basis for terrorism charge
Judge Mari Paz Benito from court number three in Pamplona took over the case and accused the detainees of ‘behaviour injurious to authority’. The Foral Police and the Civil Guard delivered two reports that discredited a possible “organized lynch mob”. Specifically, the Civil Guard report alledged that there was evidence of an alleged hate crime, but not of ‘terrorism’, as reported by the Collective of Victims of Terrorism (Covite). The penalty for a hate crime is between one and four years in prison.

The Spanish National Court pushes on
At the end of October, the Spanish prosecutor’s office, at the request of the National Court judge Carmen Lamela, wrote a third report on the brawl: “There are indications that allow one to consider the existence of a possible crime of terrorism [… ]. The facts are framed within a harassment campaign suffered by the agents in certain localities of the Basque Country and Navarra”. On the 26th, Lamela appointed herself as competent judge to investigate the facts to see if they conformed to the definition of “terrorist crime” that is described in article 573 of the new criminal code (reformed in 2015 by the Partido Popular and Socialist Party votes).

The article states that public disorders that could “seriously alter public peace” are “crimes of terrorism”. Before the reform to this law was approved, the UN reported that the new drafting could ‘criminalize behaviors that are not acts of terrorism’, at the time.

The Civil Guard changes its story
The judge, at the time, also urgently requested a new report by the Civil Guard on “the harassment campaign suffered by agents in Navarra and, specifically, in Altsasu,” according to Europa Press. In this text, drafted in Pamplona, ​​the police body changed the initial position and aligned its story with the Office of the Prosecutor.

On November 10th, after dismissing an appeal by the defense team for the two accused, Judge Benito stepped aside and passed the case to the National Court. On that same day, it emerged that the Foral Police and the Civil Guard had managed to identify ten more people who had taken part in the aggressions.

Eight prosecuted for terrorism
On November 15, Judge Lamela ordered the detention of eight of those identified to provide statements. Six of these people were remanded into custody awaiting trial, and all had their passports removed, and were obliged to appear before a judge twice a week.

The suffering of the families
The process of media criminalization and the coordinated actions of the public prosecutor and the National Court against these young people followed a scheme very similar to what has been undertaken against the current Catalan political prisoners. Both of these groups are suffering under the weight of judicial strategies which violate fundamental rights, and that disperse the prisoners. This suffering is extended beyond the accused, to their families. One of the accused, Adur Martínez de Alda, is locked up in Aranjuez. The other two, Oihan Arnanz and Jokin Unamuno, in Navalcarnero – these prisons are all near Madrid.

Take the story of Fernando Pozueta, the uncle of Adur Ramírez de Alda. He outlined a journey to visit his nephew in prison, on twitter, a few days ago (see below).  “At last we see Adur with the intercom in our hand waiting for us on the other side of the glass! We have forty minutes. We greet him effusively and he corresponds us with a happy, frank smile, showing his pearly whites […]. We manage fifty minutes from the beginning of the visit and then the communication line is cut. We say goodbye. It’s a tough time. But he never stops smiling. Kisses that cross the glass”.

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