A Barcelona judge has sentenced a couple to a 720-euro fine for a crime of coercion for a protest against the landlady who raised their rent and then evicted her due to her refusal to increase the rent. This is the first court ruling against members of the Barcelona Tenants Union, in a case that gained relevance due to the support given to the couple by various politicians, including the current Minister of Equality, Irene Montero.
The sentence does not accept all the claims of the Prosecutor’s Office and the private accusation of the landlady, Esther A., who requested up to a year in prison, although for the Union it represents “an attempt” to stop the protests against the owners, in the words of its spokesperson, Carme Arcarazo. The defense of the tenants will appeal the ruling before the Court of Barcelona.
In this new sentence, the magistrate condemns the couple of tenants, Juan H. and Livia A., for a single fact: the protest at the real estate office that managed the owner’s flats, during which the administrator sent a email to the owner in which he announced his resignation to continue running the farms.
The administrator sent the email because he was coerced by the “environmental intimidation” derived from the break-in at the office, according to the magistrate in the sentence to which elDiario.es has had access.
The action in the administrator’s office, which occurred in December 2018, was one of the mobilizations that the Barcelona Tenants Union and the Popular Housing Office of the Gràcia neighborhood carried out to protest against the rent increase that the owner raised the couple, who since 2007 lived in the apartment with their children. The owner only agreed to renew the contract with a 30% increase, up to 1,300 euros, and refused to enter into any negotiation. They were evicted on December 20, 2019 after two attempts stopped by the neighbors and the Union.
The judge holds the defendants and the rest of the “unidentified” people who participated in the protest responsible for addressing the property administrator and telling him that he was sending the mail or “they would return as many times as necessary”, an end that the couple of tenants like the rest of the Union members who participated in the protest. In their statement, the defendants assured that they were unaware of the email.
Instead, the magistrate highlights that the writing of the email “was supervised by the defendants and their companions” with the aim of “pressuring” the landlady (who was not in the office at the time of the protest) and thus try to avoid the rent increase.
To reach this conclusion, the magistrate relies solely on the statement of the property administrator who wrote the email and one of her employees. At the trial, the witness did not point to the defendants as directly responsible for the coercion, but limited himself to pointing out that they were inside the premises.
Despite acknowledging that no violence was exerted on the persons nor did the office suffer material damage, the judge argues that the protest generated “environmental intimidation to which both defendants could not be oblivious to the extent that they were at all times in the interior of the premises “of the property manager, which was what ultimately caused the mail to be sent.
The Union spokeswoman, Carme Arcarazo, recalls that the case of this couple “was one of those that created social awareness in favor of the regulation of rents.” The union spokesperson also highlights that thanks to the Catalan law that limits rental prices to date, the eviction of the couple would not have been possible. In recent months the Union has seen how two of its latest campaigns against rent increases ended in court, in what they consider to be a criminalization of the right to protest. In the other case tried before the summer, his spokesman, Jaime Palomera, ended up acquitted.
Without crediting their participation in the rest of the protests
The judge rules out that the defendants participated in the rest of the protests for which they were accused – a second demonstration in the real estate, another in front of the workplace of their tenant, calls to their workplace to negotiate the renewal of the contract and the distribution of brochures in the mailboxes of the owner’s home accusing her of maintaining an “arrogant attitude”.
It also rejects the sentence, as the accusations maintained, that the statements that the couple made to TV3 during one of the protests constitute a crime of insults, since they were only limited to “exposing the situation in which the house was located and of the rent increase, with the impossibility of assuming the rise “, without diminishing the honor and privacy of the owner.
The owner of the apartment also demanded compensation from her former tenants, an extreme that the magistrate dismisses as she considers that a “cause-and-effect relationship” cannot be established between the protest of December 2018 and the sick leave due to stress that she took six months later. .