The two arsonists accused of fire in Horta de Sant Joan accept four years in prison to avoid the trial
Five firefighters died in the blaze and another was seriously injured
BarcelonaTwelve years after the tragic fire of Horta de Sant Joan, in which five firefighters died and another was seriously injured, the judicial investigation against the perpetrators of the fire could reach its end point. The two arsonists accused of starting the fire have been awaiting a trial for over a decade due to court delays. Now an agreement between the parties could see the case come to an end. As Tv3 advanced and judicial sources have confirmed, the public prosecution, the Generalitat and the private prosecution have reached an agreement that requires the accused to admit they started the fire and accept a four-year prison sentence, as well as pay €9m in compensation to the families of the victims. In exchange, they will avoid the trial.
The fire in Horta de Sant Joan burnt a thousand hectares of forest. On July 20, 2009, Antonio Paz and Lorenzo Forner, two unsuccessful candidates to secure a post as firefighters had been working clearing the forest for the Generalitat and lit a bonfire that ended up triggering the fire. An elite unit of the Generalitat de Lleida firefighters (GRAE) and another unit of Aragonese firefighters were trapped by the flames while trying to extinguish the fire. A helicopter was able to rescue the Aragonese firefighters but when it tried to return to save Lleida firefighters it could not access the area. Five of the firefighters of this unit died and a sixth was badly injured.
Paz and Forner were arrested in January 2010. The two claimed that they had never intended to provoke the fire, but the investigators found some photographs they had taken with their mobile phones when the bonfire had already burned the first trees and caused a column of smoke.
Delays in the case
Initially, both the Prosecutor's Office and the Generalitat were seeking 20 years in prison for the two perpetrators, charged with five counts of manslaughter as well as causing bodily harm to the surviving firefighter. If the agreement is confirmed, they would only face a quarter of the sentence. Even so, it would have been difficult for a trial to have imposed these sentences because of the delay in the case being heard. This was partly caused by a decision to send the accused to a criminal court rather than sit before a popular jury. The lengthy investigation also contributed.
In fact, according to sources consulted, the agreement of conformity includes these delays, which are taken into account when calculating the reduction in penalties which the defendants have finally accepted