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After spending a year in pre-trial detention in Madrid, the trial of 23-year-old Dani Gallardo begins on Friday. He was arrested at an October 2019 rally held in the Spanish capital to protest against the controversial jail sentences given to the nine Catalan pro-independence leaders. His trial is scheduled to take place over two sessions: tomorrow and on November 17th.

Gallardo is charged with public disorder, assault on authority and grievous bodily harm. He was arrested on October 16th last year, just after the rally at the Puerta del Sol, at which there were confrontations between protesters and police. According to his defence lawyer, Dani Gallardo was trying to defend a friend from a police assault at the time of his arrest.

He has spent the last year in Alcalà Meco prison, in the Madrid region. All his requests for bail have been denied. The police report on the protest last October accuses him of attempting to assault an officer with a piece of wood, pulled from a pallet, which had nails in it. The prosecution is demanding a six-year prison sentence.

The construction of a case

The accusation against Gallardo, say his defence team, has been put together to criminalize the protest. They say there is no evidence of the action of which the police accuse him. The police report says Gallardo hit a police officer's helmet with a piece of wood, which had nails in it. The defence denies this, as well as asserting that he has been kept in pre-trial prison because of his second surname, Herczog, which is German.

"In the police charges that were made, they arrested three people, one of whom was a minor, but Dani was not detained at that point, but much later," says Alejandra Matamoro, spokesperson for the Madrid Anti-Repression Movement, which is conducting Gallardo's defence. In fact, Dani was already returning home with his friends when they ran into the police, with the protest having finished. The riot police came at them and the group tried to run away as best they could. The police managed to catch Elsa, a friend of Dani's. "He realized that she was no longer following him, that she had been caught by the police and they were beating her. So he turned around and went to help her. That's when they arrested him and beat him too," said the spokesperson for the Anti-Repression group.

The main charge against Dani Gallardo is for allegedly assaulting a policeman with a piece of wood with rusty nails in it, taken from a pallet, which supposedly impacted on the police officer's helmet but did not fully pierce it. "That's not true. There is not even any real or consistent evidence," said Alejandra. The main evidence presented is a photograph of the helmet, which was duly leaked to the newspaper El Mundo to incriminate Dani. "The photo shows the helmet with the stick "nailed" to it, but at the police station. It is impossible that this would have stayed there during the transfer [from the street to the station]. It is not attached at any point," said the group's spokesperson. In addition, she pointed out, Dani is very thin, and would not even have had the strength to drive it into the police officer's helmet. "And even if he had managed to do so, he couldn't have made it impact so deeply that it would have stayed like that until it arrived at the police station and the picture was taken," she says.

The other evidence is the injury report on the allegedly assaulted policeman, which "does not even exist", according to Alejandra. "The policeman reported that he had a headache. The treatment they gave him was simply ibuprofen. That is the injury report,” she said. To top it all off, the report submitted by the officer was filed an hour before Dani Gallardo was arrested.

"The accusation is based, as always, on the word of the police, which in this country is enough to do or undo. What the police say is gospel", complains his defence team. They are prepared for more irregularities and "surprises" during the trial. "In these cases you never know," they admit.