CONGRESS PROTEST

“No evidence” of crimes in September Congress protest, judge rules

High Court magistrate berates police for exaggerating demonstration's risk element

Elena Martinez (r), one of the protestors against whom charges were dropped Thursday, is greeted outside the High Court. / Emilio Naranjo (EFE)

High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz has thrown out a case brought by the police against eight organizers of the September 25 protest outside Congress in Madrid.

Shelving the case with some scathing observations, Pedraz refuted the claims of the authorities that the protestors had attempted to invade the national assembly or to impede the normal function of government. The judge also noted that the stated aim of the demonstration — to demand the resignation of Mariano Rajoy's government and the dissolution of parliament — are protected under the fundamental right of freedom of expression.

The judge launched his investigation due to the seriousness of the charges brought by the police, which maintained that the intention of the protestors was to "occupy one of the most important public institutions of the state." Pedraz ordered the identification of the demonstration's organizers on Facebook and Google, as well as the owners of two bank accounts opened to finance the event and those that had deposited funds therein.

The seriousness of the risk described by the police was not such"

The authorities initially identified 30 people but the judge called just eight to testify. Seven of these, after appearing in court on Thursday, were immediately released. The eighth, a day laborer from Granada province, claimed "conscientious objection" and refused to appear. The case against him was also shelved.

Pedraz noted that the demonstration had been authorized by the central government delegate in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, who also stated that the aim of the protestors was not to occupy Congress but to remain outside. Therefore, ruled Pedraz, the "seriousness of the risk described by the police was not such."

The judge also told how the Interior Ministry had tried to get the case heard at the High Court, rather than applying to a lower court as would be normal in a simple case of public order offenses. On Thursday morning, a police report landed on his desk accusing five of the protestors of crimes against public institutions. Pedraz maintained that "no evidence exists" that the protestors intended to gain access to Congress, that government was able to function with normality and that no deputy's access to the building had been impeded in any way.

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