The Barcelona Court has revoked the sentence that a judge imposed on a couple of tenants, Juan H. and Livia A., for a protest against the landlady who raised their rent and then evicted them due to their refusal to increase the rent. The sentence now annulled was the first against two members of the Tenants’ Union and was a cause for concern for the Barcelona movement in favor of the right to housing.
The case of Juan and Livia became relevant in 2018 due to the support given to the couple by several politicians, including the current Minister of Equality, Irene Montero. Since 2007 they lived in the same apartment in the Gracia neighborhood with their children. In October 2018, the owner, Esther A., informed them that she only agreed to renew the contract with a 30% increase, up to 1,300 euros, and refused to enter into any negotiations.
Then the mobilizations of the Barcelona Tenants Union and the Popular Housing Office of the Gràcia neighborhood began to protest against the rent increase, which did not finally prevent the eviction of the family on December 20, 2019 after two attempts stopped by neighborhood mobilization.
The magistrate of the criminal court 20 of Barcelona sentenced Juan and Livia a few months ago to a fine of 720 euros for a crime of coercion for a single fact: the protest in December 2018 at the real estate office that managed the flats of the owner, during which the administrator sent an email to the owner announcing his resignation from continuing to run the farms. According to the judge, the administrator sent the mail because he was coerced by the “environmental intimidation” derived from the break-in at the office.
The couple, defended by the lawyer David Aranda, from Arrels Advocats, appealed the sentence, and now the Barcelona Court has agreed with them in a sentence that elDiario.es has agreed to. In essence, the magistrates consider that the judge who judged them in the first instance violated the right to effective judicial protection of Juan and Livia by convicting them of acts for which they had already been tried, something prohibited by law. This is what is known as the “non bis in idem” principle.
The magistrates of the 3rd section of the Barcelona Court recall that the protest in the real estate property was already the subject of a trial for minor crimes as a result of the police report prepared by the Mossos d’Esquadra. However, as the property administrator did not appear in court to ratify his complaint, Juan and Livia were acquitted. The judges conclude that although the complainant is now the owner, the facts are the same, so Juan and Livia cannot be convicted now for a protest from which they ended up exonerated in 2018.
Moreover, the robes remind that the owner “in no way” can be a victim of the crime of coercion for the protest in the real estate given that “she was not even” in the office where the protest took place.
The new acquittal sentence can still be appealed to the Supreme Court, but it represents a victory for the Union, which in recent months has seen how two of its latest campaigns against rent increases ended in court, in what they consider a criminalization of the right to protest. In the other case tried before the summer, his spokesman, Jaime Palomera, ended up acquitted, as has now happened with Juan and Livia.
“In the face of any attempt to criminalize our activity, we once again express our determination and commitment to continue organizing ourselves and fighting for the right to housing and a decent life,” the Union has proclaimed in a statement. The Barcelona organization of tenants also regrets that the “criminalization and judicialization” of their protest actions “is frequently used by those who violate the right to housing.” And they insist that above all they defend “dialogue and negotiation between landlords and tenants.”