He is a US citizen, and he has been imprisoned in Catalonia's Brians1 jail for four months, for "his part" in the huge protests that took place last October when guilty verdicts were handed down against the Catalan pro-independence leaders. Tomorrow, February 20th, his trial was due - but, one day before, it's been suspended. Charles Pittman, a 30-year-old American, was arrested by Barcelona city police on Friday, October 18th in central Barcelona. In the morning. It was the day of a general strike, with the arrival of three huge protest marches in Barcelona - the Marches for Freedom. Charles was looking for material to reuse in a garbage container. He had a tooth whitener product in his backpack, evidence that convinced police to arrest him. He was to have been the first of those held in custody since the October protests to be put on trial, out of six who are still in prison. Of those six, five are foreigners.
Although it was shown that there was no flammable material in the contents of Charles' backpack, Barcelona Investigating Court No. 16 decided to hastily close the investigation part of the case, and to schedule his trial for Thursday at 12 noon. Alerta Solidària, the legal support group which is conducting his defence, has explained to ElNacional.cat that he is accused of an offence of causing damage by fire and offence of public disorder, even though the container in question did not suffer any damage.
For these alleged crimes, the prosecutor is demanding a total of 6 years' prison, a 7,200 euro fine and expulsion from Spain. For this reason, Alerta Solidària had submitted an appeal to the Provincial Audience court, which has now been accepted, annulling the hearing which brought the investigative part of the case to an end, so that now, a further investigative stage will be carried out.
In the ruling, to which this newspaper has had access, the provincial court acknowledges that procedural safeguards were violated and that testimony was not taken from the police officers present at Charles' arrest to determine the facts of the case. The new trial date is unknown at present, but Alerta Solidària denounces that Charles continues to be imprisoned and asks anyone who witnessed his arrest in October to contact them.
Five of the six jailed are foreigners
Of the around fifty people who were remanded to provisional prison after being arrested during last October's intense protests, six are still in custody. Of these, five are foreigners, and the judge's argument for keeping them locked up is centred on their lack of a fixed, settled life.
Three of those in custody, Ibrahim Afkir, Sharaf Fadlaoui and Mouschine, have been jailed for 129 days in the Puig de les Basses jail near Figueres. A support group - Grupo de Apoyo a Ibrahim y Sharaf - asserts that there is an "interested" discourse close to the case and the defendants are being blamed for exaggerated actions. They also regard the case as racism, because all the other young people who were arrested for similar actions have been released.
The support group also demands that the Catalan government, which is making its own prosecution of the youths, withdraw from the case. It also claims that their arrest was arbitrary because they did not take part in the mobilizations against the court sentences and were far away from the scene of the actions they are charged with.
The fifth person arrested, 119 days ago, Mohamed, is in Barcelona's Zona Franca Internment Centre. His situation is slightly different from that of the others imprisoned and definitely more complex, because he could be deported from the country before trial, without having any right to defence.
Dani Gallardo, from Madrid, is the sixth prisoner. The 22-year-old was arrested on October 16th during a rally in the Spanish capital against the Catalan trial sentences and has been locked up in Alcalá-Meco prison ever since. On two occasions, Dani has had requests for bail turned down because the judge claims he constitutes a flight risk. The last such request was on February 7th. Madrid group Movimiento Antirrepresivo, which is providing support in the case, says that "the state is still bent on using him as a scapegoat."
In the last four months, several large demonstrations calling for the freedom of Gallardo have been held, both in Madrid and in the Catalan capital.
The last such protest was last weekend, when hundreds of people gathered in parallel in Madrid and Barcelona in support of the young Madrid man. The Barcelona part of the protest took place in the Gràcia neighbourhood.
Concentració de suport a en Dani Gallardo a Plaça del Sol de #Gràcia: el jove que va ser detingut per manifestar-se a Madrid a favor dels presos polítics catalans.#Llibertatpresospolítics 🎗 #LliureRetornDelsExiliats🎗 pic.twitter.com/YMYVW0pC18— Llibertat.cat (@Llibertatcat) February 15, 2020
Rally in support of Dani Gallardo in Plaça del Sol #Gràcia: the young man who was arrested for demonstrating in Madrid in support of Catalan political prisoners."— Llibertat.cat