Activist threatened with deportation for moving two rubbish containers
Prosecution also seeks an 8-year ban on re-entering the country, as she does not hold Spanish nationality
BarcelonaTwo years in prison, which would be replaced by deportation and an 8-year ban on re-entering the country: this is the sentence the Public Prosecutor's Office is seeking for Gina, a 27-year-old CUP and Endavant militant, for allegedly moving two rubbish containers to build a barricade in the autumn 2019 riots, protesting against the sentencing of pro-independence leaders. The prosecution has made this request because Gina, who has been living in Barcelona for three years, was born in England and does not have Spanish nationality, although she has lived all her life in Benidoleig (Marina Alta, Alicante), where her family moved when she was only 6 years old.
"I didn't expect it, as few foreign people have been charged over the protests, it would seem deportation is not considered, but it is a real possibility," she says, and adds: "Two years in prison would have made me angry, but it is not the same as the fear I now feel of being deported, because I would feel completely uprooted". She has almost no family left in England. She also warns that it creates a dangerous precedent: "Bringing up deportation demobilises those who do not have Spanish nationality". She does not hide the fact that she might be luckier than Mohammed, Ayoub and Ashraf, youngsters of Moroccan origin who were imprisoned over the same protests in Lleida and were deported to Morocco after being locked up in Foreigners Internment Camp (CIE). If sentenced to deportation, Gina would also have to enter a CIE before being sent to England: "They were expelled without consideration, I have the privilege of being white and semi-European and it means that I can live a normal life". She does not have Spanish nationality because, as she was an EU citizen until Brexit, she had not needed it. "Until recently I had European rights. After Brexit I am in limbo. I had considered becoming a Spanish national, but it is a very long process that makes you give up before completing it, which is what they want; but I am still a permanent resident," she explains.
"I survive by floating"
Although she admits that she suffers more for her parents than for herself, the activist remarks that she has ups and downs. "I've had to get used to the idea, I haven't had time to think". Two months ago she broke down after going to Catalonia's High Court to pick up the subpoena for her trial, which will be held on Thursday. "That day Moli and Pau were testifying (two young people indicted for participating in the 1st October 2020 demonstrations) and there were many people outside to support them, and I thought that soon it will be me and my people there and when I got home I burst into tears."
The most surprising thing about her case is that she was neither arrested nor identified in the 2019 protests. "I found out last summer by chance, because I went to get a paper at the Foreigners' Office in Alicante and the police told me that I was wanted and a search and arrest order would be issued against me. I went crazy because I didn't know where it originated from", she says after reporting that no notification arrived in Benidoleig, where she is registered as a resident. It was not until December, when she went to the Ciutat de la Justícia, that her lawyer was handed the indictment. "The only notice I received was from the Guardia Civil, who four days before the deposition called my mother to let her know when I had to attend, but I could have missed it," she laments. And she adds: "They had been looking for me for two years and not even six months have passed since I found out what the accusation was, with the aim of catching me unawares". Her indictment is also, to say the least, strange. "I have been accused by two police officers who say they recognised me from the general strike on February 21, which was seven months earlier, and that they know it was me despite the fact that in the indictment they say that my face was covered. I was charged at random".
Demobilising the movement
Gina is certain that large numbers are being prosecuted to demobilise the independence movement. "They take a fundamental right like going to a demonstration away from you. Out of fear, I have only been to the Women's Day demonstration, and people who have been indicted for a long time daren't go out on the street to stop an eviction, for example". This fear is infectious. "The people around you also wonder if it can happen to them; it is not the prison sentence but the fear that catches on," she criticises. "We don't want martyrs or comrades in prison," he concludes, fearing Adrián Sas – sentenced to three and a half years – may only the first pro-independence activist to go to jail.