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Brexit provided as reason to request detention for Scot jailed in Barcelona riots in hearing

Prosecutor argues if absconding occurs, UK would not hand Aitken over but defense disagrees, saying Britain-EU exit agreement would indeed permit it


24 March 2021 03:38 PM


Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

The public prosecutor has insisted that the Scottish man who has been in provisional detention for over a month for his involvement in the Barcelona riots in mid-February should continue to remain firmly behind bars. 

In a hearing held on Wednesday, at Section 7 of Barcelona's provincial court, the attorney general said that in the event that William Aitken absconded, an extradition would be almost impossible, especially after Brexit. 

Sources of Alerta Solidària, the organization representing Aitken in his judicial case, told Catalan News that the prosecutor upheld that upon leaving the EU, the European arrest warrant mechanism ceased to apply to Britain – thus, what would apply in this case would be the traditional extradition system and the international agreements based on the principle of not extraditing nationals. 

"These kinds of extraditions are always requested but never granted," the prosecutor is said to have argued.

Yet, Alerta Solidària disagrees: "This is false because the agreement regulating the terms of the UK's withdrawal from Europe establishes a similar system to that of European arrest warrants." 

Aitken's lawyer defended this stance in the hearing and alleged that the prosecutor "was unable to refute" these arguments. 

Indeed, the trade and cooperation agreement reached by the UK and the EU in December 2020 does lay down the basis for extraditions between both territories (page 332) and is similar to European arrest warrants. 

The defense team also told Catalan News that the public prosecutor stated that the riots in response to rapper Pablo Hasél's imprisonment "were very serious," but did not specify which events would suggest that Aitken should continue behind bars. 

The hearing lasted around 15 minutes and, in the end, the Scotsman was not moved to the courtroom from the Brians I penitentiary.

The judge is expected to decide on whether to extend his precautionary measures, including prison, in the coming days. 

Accused of throwing stones and moving dumpsters

Aitken has been at the Brians I penitentiary center since February 18, which is why Alerta Solidària encourages the public to send him letters of support.

He is the only person that was arrested during the riots who is still behind bars aside from seven individuals who allegedly attempted to burn down a local Barcelona police van on February 27

Aitken is accused of allegedly throwing stones at police vans on the night of February 17 and moving dumpsters into the street to build barricades. 

The inquiry into his activities aims to investigate possible crimes of public disorders and attacks against law enforcement.

British consulate

Sources at the British Embassy in Spain told Catalan News that the consulate in the Catalan capital "is assisting a British national following his arrest in Barcelona."

"We are in touch both with his family and with the Spanish authorities," they said. 

The embassy also said that in this kind of situations, the person in pre-trial detention is offered consular assistance, which includes receiving explanations of the legal procedures ahead, helping them get in touch with their family, providing a list of lawyers, assisting with potential language barriers and visiting them in prison.  

Individual related to burning van by mistake

None of the people arrested after the first nights of riots calling for the release of Pablo Hasel are still in provisional detention except for Aitken, with the exception of the seven allegedly involved in the attempted burning of a Barcelona local police van while an officer was still inside on February 27. 

The Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra police say they have ties to Italian anarchist movements. 

Of these seven protesters, five are Italian men in addition to one French woman and a Spanish woman.

An Italian woman had also been in provisional detention for weeks, but was released this week after new footage confirmed that she was not the woman seen spraying a van with flammable liquid – the evidence was presented by the individual's defense team and was accepted by the public prosecutor. 


  • William Aitken (Courtesy of Alerta Solidària)

  • William Aitken (Courtesy of Alerta Solidària)