On the 4th of February 2006 a squat party taking place in the centre of Barcelona attracted police attention, who stood outside requesting IDs, in a similar fashion as the Met would stop and search in London. What would seem like a relatively common interaction between squatters and coppers became one of the worst cases of police brutality and cover-up in Spain’s recent history. During the squat party there were nine arrests. The next day the then-Mayor of Barcelona, Joan Clos, stated to the press that a police officer had been wounded by a plant pot thrown from the balcony of the building. The police officer ended up tetraplegic. The version of events changed a few days later to say the officer had been wounded by a stone thrown outside of the squat, which suited the narrative to charge Rodrigo Lanza, a young Chilean, and two others. Patricia Heras was cycling that night and had an accident in a different area. She was taken by ambulance to the same hospital as the police officer. Due to her appearance – punk/squatter – she was also charged with assaulting a police officer and throwing a fence at him.During the trial two police officers, Victor Bayona and Bakari Samyang, testified against the defendants. Up to four forensic specialists contradicted the police’s version, saying it was impossible that a stone thrown from that angle would have caused the injuries to the police officer. The ambulance driver also testified that Patricia Heras had a cycling accident in a different location far from the squat.
In January 2008 the defendants were all convicted: Rodrigo was sentenced to four and a half years, his two friends received three years and three months, Patricia received three years and the other arrestees were given minor convictions.
Patricia committed suicide in April 2011, when she had a prison permit to visit her home.
Rodrigo and his mother Maria have leaded the campaign for justice for the 4-F defendants and promise they will go to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. Rodrigo was released in December 2012. He’d spent two years on remand, one year on bail and three more years in prison. He received sympathies from the other prisoners and was hated by the screws, however he always declined the favours offered if he pleaded guilty. When he appealed in June 2009, his sentence was incremented from four and a half to five years. Rodrigo will always remember the first words he heard when he encountered the police that unfortunate 4th of February: “los sudacas de mierda por aquí” (those fucking sudacas round here – sudacas is a racist slur against South Americans); Rodrigo immediately knew he wasn’t going to be treated lightly.
All the defendants were brutally tortured to try to make them confess for crimes they did not commit. However, when some of them tried to sue the judge dismissed the case, famously saying “one thousand more of you could come, but I’ll still believe the police”. The two police officers who testified, Victor Bayona and Bakari Samyang, were convicted in 2011 of torturing another man and perverting the course of justice. The two coppers were at a club in September 2006 when they started sexually harassing a woman. A man from Trinidad and Tobago, Yuri Jardine, told them to stop. The coppers responded by brutally beating him and planting drugs on him. “It’s clear that they weren’t such reliable witnesses”, Rodrigo’s lawyer said. This week their request for reprieve, supported by their union, was denied by the government and they now have 15 working days to voluntarily enter prison for two years and three months, wherever they choose.
The documentary “Ciutat Morta”, which has been used to publicise the case, was recently released and will be available for free download on the 4th of February 2015. The documentary has already received several awards and has been screened in several locations, however TV3, the Catalan television, refuses to show it. As soon as a version with subtitles is available there will be a screening at LARC, organised by yours truly.
Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza
Sources (in Spanish and Catalan):
https://www.filmin.es/pelicula/ciutat-morta (includes trailer with English subtitles)