Case against 49 people indicted over Tsunami Democràtic blockade of AP-7 thrown out

Girona Appeal Court reproaches Prosecutor's Office for arguments opposed to ECHR jurisprudence

2 min
General plan of the cut of the AP-7 at the height of Salto with a barricade crossing the highway on November 13, 2019

GironaGirona's Appeal Court has rejected the public prosecutor's appeal in the case of the 49 Tsunami Democràtic activists accused of cutting off AP-7 motorway in Salt in November 2019, who have been cleared of charges. However, three more people are still being investigated over the protest that cut traffic on the motorway and ended with riots in Salt, as part of the protests against the sentencing of the leaders of the Catalan Independence bid.

The magistrates tell the Prosecutor's Office off for the arguments it put forward in the appeal: "The chamber does not share the legal considerations of the appeal filed by the Prosecutor's Office for being contrary to the jurisprudence of this room, for making a biased reading of the judgment of the Supreme Court number 592/2021 and for opposing head-on the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)".

Thus, the Appeal Court wields different sentences and laws that establish in which cases and circumstances a crime of public disorder can be attributed to some demonstrators, and recalls that it is necessary to differentiate between crimes committed "within" a crowd of people and crimes committed "by" a crowd of people. After analysing the investigation and based on this legislation, the court concludes that "there is no evidence that [the accused] have been identified as part of the group of demonstrators who set barricades on fire and attacked the police".

Given this fact, the magistrates state that it would only be possible to convict them for the crime of public disorder if they had committed some "relevant act for the maintenance of the situation of disorder", which, according to the judges, was also not proven. "We want to make it abundantly clear that, in our opinion, the mere presence at a demonstration at which disturbances occur can in no case be equated to a co-perpetration with the these," they emphasise.

In defence of the right of assembly and free speech

The court, in its brief, also reviews the multiple case law that protects the rights to peaceful assembly and free speech to defend that, in no case can they be interpreted in a restrictive manner. Moreover, it stresses that a person does not cease to enjoy these rights even if violent or punishable acts occur during a protest, as long as they "remain peaceful in their intentions or behaviour".

In this sense, the judges argue that neither could the right to assembly be restricted if the participants engaged in criminally unlawful conduct, as long as it does not result in violence. "A certain level of disruption of daily life as a result of the demonstrations, such as traffic disruption and nuisance, or even damage to commercial activities, must be tolerated in order not to affect the right to assembly," they defend.

Finally, Girona's Appeal Court emphasises that the demobilising effect cannot be set aside if a restrictive interpretation of these rights is made: "Who will attend a demonstration if their mere presence there will be sufficient grounds for charging them with all the crimes that may be committed?" The court's sentence is final.