After nine months in pre-trial detention in the Puig de les Basses prison in Figueres, the trial of Charaf Fadlaoui - 18 years old - and Ibrahim Afkir - 19 years old - has begun this Tuesday in the Girona High Court. They are the first to be tried of those arrested in the protests and riots which engulfed Catalonia following last October's guilty verdicts in the trial of the Catalan pro-independence leaders, and are accused of public disorder, assault on authority, causing injuries and damage, in a trial that is scheduled to take two days.
Criticisms of "institutional racism"
Dozens of people gathered in front of the Girona courts to show their support for the defendants for the second day in a row, having been convened by the Ibrahim and Charaf Support Group. Members of the group, who unfurled a banner with the slogan "Freedom for Charaf and Ibrahim", assert that the case is closely linked to an "interested" discourse and that the actions they are accused of have been exaggerated. They also describe the case as racism, as all the other youths arrested for similar acts last October, but not members of racial minorities, are now at liberty. Leaders of pro-independence organizations Òmnium Cultural and the Catalan National Assembly and the CUP political party were also present at the protest outside the trial.
In court, Charaf Fadlaoui and Ibrahim Afkir denied throwing stones at a Mossos d'Esquadra van, this being the alleged action which led to them being charged. Both men stated that they did not take part in any of the mobilizations against the convictions of the pro-independence leaders, but rather, they were caught in the middle of the disturbances. Answering only the questions of his lawyer, Benet Salellas, one of the defendants said that "being of foreign origin means you are the perfect target when the police are angry". They recounted that they were in Girona, near Plaça Sant Pere, to take advantage of a wifi connection available there, in order to talk to family and friends when they were surprised by the arrival of protesters.
Testimonies were also given today by the two Mossos police officers who were injured when their police van window was broken by an object, and they asserted that the two youths were the perpetrators. Only one of the two Mossos testifying at the trial said that he had identified the men's faces.
The spokesman for the defendants' support group, Mostafà Shaimi, recalled that the young men had been in pre-trial detention in Puig de les Basses for nine months - to be exact, 268 days. Shaimi claimed that the accusation against them is based on "very weak elements" and that there is "no empirical or material evidence" for what they are accused of: having thrown "a stone" at the Mossos. “There are only contradictions, because some officers say they threw it in one place, and others, in another,” he said.