Five months in provisional prison, request of the Prosecutor’s Office for six years in prison … and acquittal. The judge has exonerated Charles P., the homeless American accused of trying to burn a container that did not burn in the protests against the 2019 procés sentence, for lack of evidence.
Police word: enough to convict, but also removable
In her sentence, the magistrate of Criminal Court 2 of Barcelona confirms that the statements of the Barcelona Urban Guard agents who testified at the trial are not enough to end the presumption of innocence of Charles P. The three agents who testified indicated Charles P. as the author of the small fire – “llama”, in the word of one of the uniformed women – although they acknowledged that they did not directly see him start the fire.
“There are rational doubts as to whether it was the defendant who set the container on fire,” the judge resolved. The sentence highlights that the version of the accused, defended by the lawyer David Aranda of the Alert Solidària collective, that he was looking for material to “recycle” in the container cannot be ruled out.
Charles P. has been exonerated of some events that were by no means the most serious of those that occurred in the riots, despite which he spent five months in provisional prison for an alleged risk of escape incompatible with his lack of financial resources . Only the arrival of the pandemic saved him from being imprisoned without a sentence.
The trial was the first held in Barcelona due to the disturbances after the judgment of the procés. The Prosecutor’s Office maintained its harsh criminal response that has led other defendants to reach agreements with the Public Ministry to avoid exposing yourself to high prison sentences.
The judge, as alerted by the defense of Charles P., highlights that none of the agents who testified saw Charles P. with a lighter in his hand to set fire to the interior of the container, and that the defendant was not seized any lighter in his hands or pockets at the time of his arrest, which occurred when he had half his body in the container.
The Prosecutor’s Office demanded, in addition to the prison sentence, to expel the defendant from Spain for the crimes of public disorder and damages, but the judge ruled out both types: Charles P. was alone looking for garbage in the container, something incompatible with group action that requires the crime of disorder.
But there is also no room for a sentence for damages because no expert evidence was presented to prove “the time it takes for the garbage bags that are deposited in the containers to start burning,” adds the judge. In short, the word of the Guàrdia Urbana agents who saw Charles P. enter the container and accused him of trying to burn it is not enough.