Grandma who refused to tear down her home freed after three days in jail

PM Rajoy pardons 63-year-old Canary Islander who built illegal extension in protected area

Josefa Hernández walks out of Tahíche penitentiary on Thursday.
Josefa Hernández walks out of Tahíche penitentiary on Thursday.JAVIER FUENTES / EFE

Around 30 people were waiting for Josefa Hernández outside her home in Campoviejo, Betancuria, in the Canary Islands, to celebrate her return.

It was this ramshackle house, which stands on protected land on the island of Fuerteventura, that put this 63-year-old grandmother in prison for three-and-a-half days before she received a government pardon.

This land belongs to my family. They can’t take this away from us” Josefa Hernández’s daughter

Left-wing political party Podemos and social movements had campaigned in favor of Hernández, who lives inside the no-frills construction with two of her seven children – one of whom is disabled – and three grandchildren.

The woman, who is the main wage earner in the family, had refused to tear down an illegal extension to her house, as authorities requested, alleging she had no place else to go. Her family has owned the land since before the area was declared a protected natural park.

Although the Cabinet had yet to officially approve Hernández’s pardon at Friday’s meeting, she was released on Thursday. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said it was a “matter of common sense.”

The three-bedroom home sits in the middle of a moor called Campoviejo, within the city limits of Betancuria. The area has no cellphone reception and is the only part of the Canary Islands without a taxi service.

People march to demand a pardon for Josefa in Gran Canaria on Monday .
People march to demand a pardon for Josefa in Gran Canaria on Monday .Quique Curbelo / EFE

“Where are my treasures?” asked Josefa as she stepped back into the house to see her grandchildren, including little Darío, who greeted “Grandma Fefa” with his dirt-covered hands and face.

Family and friends embraced her as though they had been separated for a decade rather than the three-and-a-half days that Hernández spent at Tahíche penitentiary on Lanzarote.

Hernández said that now the time had “come to comply with the ruling,” in reference to the 2012 court decision forcing her to tear down the extension. The family will now move to a temporary home, but is not ready to give up its real estate.

“This land belongs to my family,” said one of Hernández’s daughters. “They can’t take this away from us.”

English version by Susana Urra

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