Wednesday, May 18

The agreement for the death of Sota that Sota forgets

What would you do if the police shot your dog to death in the middle of the street? Moreover, how many shots have you heard in your life? How many of them detonating a few meters from you? How many directed point-blank at a member of your family? Perhaps you are thinking that something like this could not happen to you, that it is the kind of thing that happens to other people. To what people?

Sota, a young Labrador cross, was shot to death on December 18, 2018 on a central and busy avenue in Barcelona. The shot, to the head, was fired by an agent of the Guàrdia Urbana in the face of the desperation of Tauri Ruusalu, the dog’s human companion, and the astonished gaze of the many pedestrians who were in the street at that time. The images of Sota dying in her own blood, wagging her tail for the last time without receiving any kind of attention or comfort from her, will not be so easily erased from our retinas.

As we told at the time, there were rallies, both in Barcelona and in other locations, to express the unanimous condemnation of the citizens and their disbelief at what is, clearly, a police excess that should never have occurred. Choosing, among all the possible options, to open fire on a defenseless animal on a busy street does not seem like the best decision for someone whose duty it is to protect us.

a long instruction

The procedure has passed during these more than three years of instruction – the phase in which the investigation of the facts is carried out – through numerous vicissitudes. Initially, several entities appeared as accusations, which chose to withdraw due to the demand for bail by the Court.

People who are not experts in legal matters are surely unaware that the obligation to post bail, sometimes high, is one more stumbling block that those who wish to bring public prosecution in cases of animal abuse usually encounter.

In the case of Sota, the obligation was also imposed to unify all the representations into one: that of the LIBERA! association, since this was the first to file a complaint. PACMA also remained in the procedure, under the same legal representation.

A possible agreement that changes the course of the process

The investigation of the case has now been closed, after a long delay. Instead of filing reciprocal accusations, the representatives of Ruusalu, owner of Sota, and the Urban Guard accused of killing her, have asked the Court to suspend the process and be referred to what is called a ‘criminal mediation’.

This script twist is surprising, since it would mean that Ruusalu gives up the trial and would be satisfied with a private agreement with the policeman who killed the animal. The popular prosecution has refused to participate in the mediation, since it considers that Sota’s death deserves to be clarified in court, and will continue with the procedure when said mediation ends and the corresponding suspension period is lifted.

“Contrary to what is stated in the information disseminated in numerous media, this mediation process cannot end with a consent sentence,” explains Maria José Mata, lawyer for the popular prosecution. “Mediation removes the case from the judicial body and encourages the parties to reach a private agreement in which they are considered compensated, without any conviction.”

This type of agreement would then mean that the owner of Sota accepts the reparation that the Guardia Urbano offers him, perhaps a pardon, and compensation for the damages suffered. As if Sota had been an object that was accidentally broken during the police intervention and not a living being shot down and left dying on the ground, denying him assistance and relief.

The popular accusation will continue with the judicial procedure after the mediation process

The lawyer intends to maintain her position and continue with the judicial procedure until the end. “It is social justice to demand the corresponding criminal responsibility of the two acting agents, not only the one who fired the shot, but also the colleague who did nothing to avoid the situation and the outcome,” she says.

Thus, he will maintain his request for conviction with penalties that can reach 27 months in prison, considering the aggravating circumstance of the public nature of the agents. On the other hand, it is unknown whether the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which has reserved the possibility of filing charges despite the fact that the parties reach an agreement, will do so in the same way as popular prosecution.

If finally, as planned, this mediation leads to an agreement between Ruusalu and the policeman who shot Sota, this would have consequences in the procedure, since the penalty requested by the popular accusation would be applied as a mitigating factor, the reparation of the damage, which could imply the reduction of the sentence by half.

The importance of public prosecution for crimes committed against animals

It is legitimate for the parties to reach an agreement, since it is an alternative offered by the law, but where is Sota in all this? A pact for the death of Sota that forgets about Sota and sends a message of impunity to a saturated citizenry that is fed up with violence against animals being free.

This situation highlights once again the enormous importance of the figure of popular accusation which, as in so many other cases in which the victims are animals, is the last hope for justice. We are once again facing a case in which only a strong and firm popular accusation, like the one brought against Sota, can mean the difference between the fight for a fair sentence and a pantomime.

When I have asked on networks what you would do if someone shot your dog dead in the middle of the street, you have answered me that you would scream, that you would help her, that you would get in the way, that you would go crazy, that you cannot even imagine. Many and many of you are clear that you would throw yourself against the aggressor, whoever he was, even at the risk of ending up in prison. Because there are two types of people, those who attack animals and those who defend them. Do you know who you prefer to be around?

Let’s not forget that Sota’s case was not the only one, nor will it be the last, in which a defenseless animal has paid with its life. Therefore, it is vitally important that we continue to demand #JusticiaParaSota.

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