Monday, January 17

Neither suspended nor filed: Mogán keeps a police officer convicted of torturing a Senegalese vendor active

It’s January 8, 2011 and it’s twenty minutes to ten at night. Sené, a Senegalese citizen, sells necklaces on the terrace of a restaurant in the commercial center of Puerto Rico, in the Gran Canaria municipality of Mogán. When two local policemen dressed in plain clothes approach him and ask him to accompany them to a secluded place, he recognizes them and runs off. They are the same people who three days before had participated in an intervention in which a cousin of his, also a street vendor, had been injured. Sené has been summoned to testify as a witness in that trial and fears for his integrity. The chase begins on the top floor and ends at the supermarket located on the ground floor. One of the officers catches up with him, trips him and, on the ground, gives him two strong kicks and a punch before stepping on top of him to immobilize him. The assault is recorded by video surveillance cameras.

Mogán hires the mayor’s lawyer to appeal the conviction for the beating of a migrant by two police officers

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Sené is dragged out of the supermarket. Outside, out of reach of the cameras, the two officers hit him with truncheons or blunt objects. The Senegalese citizen tries to protect himself with his arm and it is fractured. They hold him by the belt and throw him violently against the ground, while he screams in pain and calls for help. After putting the shackles on him, they take him to the police station located in the same shopping center, where the agents continue to beat the seller until others arrive.

With this account of proven facts, the First Section of the Provincial Court of Las Palmas sentenced in February 2021 two agents of the Mogán Local Police to seven and a half years in prison and ten years of absolute disqualification for the performance of any public employment when considering them authors of a crime of torture, in its form of serious attack on moral integrity, and another of injuries. In addition, it imposed compensation of 20,745.75 euros for the injuries caused, 2,936.8 for the consequences, and 20,000 for non-pecuniary damage and declared the Mogán City Council liable.

The convicted officers are Gilberto JMR and Carlos JHR. The first of them is in prison for a case of gender violence. The second is still active. The municipal government holds on to the fact that the sentence is not final and will wait for the Supreme Court to resolve the appeals presented by the police and by the administration itself, which intends not only to get rid of having to assume the payment of compensation in the case of that the perpetrators of the crimes do not have sufficient resources to do so, but also reduce the case to a simple crime of minor injuries. For this, the city council has awarded a contract of less than 15,000 euros to the office of a renowned criminal lawyer, José Antonio Choclán, the same one who defends the mayor, Onalia Bueno, in the investigation of the alleged plot of vote buying by the local Ciuca party in the 2015 and 2019 elections.

When the recordings came to light, the current first deputy mayor of Mogán, Mencey Navarro, then a spokesman for Ciuca in the opposition, asked the Popular Party (PP) government to immediately open a disciplinary file against the agents involved. Six years after that same party took over as head of the local corporation, not even the agents have been suspended from employment and salary, nor have they even opened the file that Navarro claimed years ago in the opposition. One of them is still active and he even participated a month after his conviction in an event with the head of the Local Police to present two teams for detecting false documents. Internal sources have even spoken of “reasons of friendship” to justify their permanence.

The truth is that almost eleven years after the events occurred, there is no record of any action by the successive municipal governments (first the PP and later Ciuca) against the policemen involved in the attack on the Senegalese street vendor. Not when the recordings were released, nor when they held the status of being investigated in a criminal case, nor when the opening of an oral trial was decreed -in October 2017- nor when the Provincial Court of Las Palmas sentenced them to seven and a half years of jail.

In its article 47, the Law of Coordination of Local Police of the Canary Islands, approved in 1997, classifies as very serious offenses, among others, any conduct constituting a fraudulent crime, the “abuse of powers” by the agents, the ” practice of inhuman, degrading, discriminatory or humiliating treatment of the people who are in their custody “or” the breach of the duty of impartiality or discriminatory action on the grounds of any social or personal condition “. The commission of very serious misconduct is punishable by separation from service and suspension from duty for three to six years.

The Supreme Prosecutor’s Office supports the conviction

The Supreme Court Prosecutor’s Office has already ruled on the appeals presented by the convicted persons and by the Mogán City Council. In a letter dated November 4, the Public Ministry is interested in its inadmissibility or the rejection of the reasons put forward by the defenses and, therefore, that the conviction of the local police officers be ratified.

Prosecutor José Antonio del Cerro considers that Sené’s testimony is confirmed “conclusively and unquestionably” by “the abundant testimony,” not only from employees and customers of the shopping center and supermarket, but also by other police officers Local commissioners at the scene of the events, and above all, for the “revealing content” of the images from the security cameras of the shops, as well as for the medical assistance reports presented by the victim.

The defense of the condemned alleges, among other issues, that the judgment of the Provincial Court is not sufficiently motivated, that the statements of the defense witnesses have not been taken into account, that the agents fulfilled their duty to prosecute those who violate the law (due to street vending) or that it has not been proven that they were the authors of the “stick” that caused the fracture of the victim. Against this argument, the Prosecutor’s Office defends that the evidence “is abundant in quality and quantity” and that the account of proven facts “does not offer any doubt.”

The appeal of the policeman who is still active maintains, in addition, that he cannot be made a participant in the aggression of his partner in the supermarket, which was recorded in the recording of the video surveillance camera, and that there is no evidence that will cause an inadequate treatment to the street vendor in his transfer to the police station. At this point, the prosecutor returns to the proven facts of the sentence and to the allusion that he makes, based on the testimony of the victim and the confirmation of some of the witnesses, of the attacks that were inflicted on him abroad. ” with batons or blunt objects. ”

The Public Ministry also rejects that the mitigation of undue delays must be classified as “highly qualified” because more than eight years have elapsed between the imputation of the agents and the holding of the oral hearing. In the prosecutor’s opinion, this delay “lacks sufficient relevance to justify the reduction (of the sentence) by one degree”, especially when the delay has not caused the police officers “a special damage”, since during the course of the case “no precautionary measure was adopted for the suspension of employment and salary of the agents accused in disciplinary proceedings by the Mogán City Council, with which the present conviction would be the one that would deprive them of the status of official with absolute disqualification “, he highlights.

The City Council resource

The appeal filed by the lawyer José Antonio Choclán on behalf of the Mogán City Council is the longest. It consists of nine grounds for challenge and requests, in short, that the aggravated subtype in the crime of injuries be suppressed and that those convicted of the crime of torture be acquitted, considering that the aggression with the baton has not been proven and that They acted to retaliate Sené for his dedication to street vending. In addition, it tries to exonerate the city council of any responsibility.

“Faced with the factual account of the judgment, no alternative thesis is erected with a trace of reasonableness that could raise any doubts about the certainty obtained by the court of first instance, which must therefore be considered as objectively correct and acceptable,” summarizes the Prosecutor, who adds that the statement of the injured party has been ratified “in an irrefutable and devastating way” with the “extensive testimony, documentary and expert evidence.”

In its appeal, the Mogán City Council recognizes that the agents beat the Senegalese vendor, but understands that none of the actions described leads to “moral suffering that seriously undermines the dignity of the detainee.” In other words, he understands that there could be an excess of force in the police action, but not torture. The prosecutor disagrees. “The defendants inflicted physical and mental suffering on the victim,” he underlines, referring to the passages of the sentence in which “the special violence used by the perpetrators” is manifested, as well as “the clear and unequivocal outrageous and humiliating content of the police intervention “, due to the number of acts that threaten physical and moral integrity, their duration and the intensity of some of them. In addition, he remarks that they acted in their capacity as local police officers and were on duty.

Contrary to the criteria of the administration, the Prosecutor’s Office also considers credited the use of an extendable baton or baton by the agents to hit the migrant and cause the fracture of the arm. “All police abuse is by definition unlawful and incompatible with the exercise of the police function in a State of Law (…) It is absolutely gratuitous and unsustainable brutality. We are not facing an understandable but disproportionate excess of a police intervention, but before an arbitrary, excessive and unjustifiable action with a particularly damaging and denigrating intensity for the attacked citizen. Which, moreover, was even on the verge of generating a public order problem in the face of the peaceful mobilization by several citizens to show their solidarity with the harmed “, ditch the brief presented by the Supreme Prosecutor.

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