Barcelona’s public prosecutor has told the city’s local government that it will not be reopening an investigation into a 2006 incident that left a police officer in a persistent vegetative state. City Hall made the request following allegations made in a documentary film that Barcelona’s municipal police force covered up the wrongful arrest of four innocent people who were subsequently sent to prison, one of whom committed suicide, for their alleged involvement in the incident. The Catalan regional government also made a similar request in reaction to the film.
The call for an investigation into the affair follows the January 17 screening on Catalan regional television of Ciutat morta (Dead city), a prize-winning 2013 documentary that challenges the official version of the Barcelona police’s handling of the events of the early hours of February 4, 2006 in the city.
Patricia Heras was sent down for three years, and committed suicide while on conditional release in 2011
That night, police officers were dispatched to a party attended by several hundred people in an abandoned cultural center on Barcelona’s Sant Pere Més Baix street, in the Ciutat Vella neighborhood, to prevent incidents. Outside, a group of 20 people tried to access the party, the police told them to leave, and an altercation ensued. During the clashes, one officer, who was not wearing a protective helmet, suffered a severe blow to the head. The Barcelona police subsequently said the officer was hit by a stone thrown by one of the men they arrested outside the building. But the documentary says the policeman was hit by a plant pot dropped from a window in the building. Speaking right after the incident, Joan Clos, the then-mayor of Barcelona, also said the police officer had been hit on the head by a plant pot.
The police arrested three men outside the abandoned building: Rodrigo Lanza, Alex Cisternas, and Juan Pintos. A few hours later, police also arrested Patricia Heras at a Barcelona hospital, accusing her of being involved in the disturbances. Heras told officers that she had fallen off her bicycle, and the film says her story is backed up by an ambulance team who treated her shortly after the accident.
After two years in custody awaiting trial, the three men were sentenced to prison: Lanza received four-and-a-half years and Cisternas and Pintos were both given three years and three months. They appealed the sentences, but a higher court upheld and extended them. Heras was sent down for three years, and committed suicide while on conditional release in April 2011 after serving just two months of her term.
The film says lawyers are attempting to find a witness who knows who threw the plant pot
Xapo Ortega and Xavier Artigas’s two-hour documentary, which garnered a 20 percent audience share in Catalonia when shown on Canal 33, points to irregularities during the trial, charging, for example, that the defense was not allowed to present any evidence and that the three young men had been tortured while detained by police. It also says that two of the arresting officers in the case were subsequently sent to jail for torturing the son of a Trinidadian diplomat, as well as falsifying evidence and accusing him of drug dealing.
Finally, the film says that lawyers are attempting to find a witness who apparently knows the identity of the person who threw the plant pot in a bid to persuade him or her to come forward, thus providing grounds to reopen the case.