Further Catalan Police officers are indicted for arrestee's death
Eight officers of the Catalan Police Force – called Mossos d’Esquadra – and two paramedics of the Catalan Emergency Services (SEM) have been indicted on Wednesday, following the death of a man while he was in custody. Last July, Yassir El Younoussi was arrested in El Vendrell for a threatening-authority felony. After a medical exam, El Younoussi was put into custody at the police station. According to the Catalan Police, due to his violent and agitated behaviour he was tied up with strips and forced to wear a helmet in order not to injure himself. He died a few hours later while still in custody at the police station. This case occurs a few weeks after another person died a few hours after the intervention of the Catalan Police in Barcelona’s Raval neighbourhood. In fact, this Wednesday, a tenth police officer has been indicted for the Raval case.
El Vendrell (ACN).- Eight officers of the Catalan Police Force – called Mossos d’Esquadra – and two paramedics of the Catalan Emergency Services (SEM) have been indicted, following the death of a man while he was in custody. On the 31stof July, the Catalan Police arrested Yassir El Younoussi in El Vendrell (Southern Catalonia) for a threatening-authority felony. After a medical exam, El Younoussi was put into custody at the coastal town’s police station. According to the Catalan Police, due to his violent and agitated behaviour, he was tied up with strips and forced to wear a helmet in order not to injure himself. However, El Younoussi died a few hours later while he was still in custody at the police station. The judge investigating the death has announced on Wednesday the indictment of 8 police officers and 2 paramedics in order to shed light on their intervention and to examine whether they could have been responsible for the victim’s death or not. The 10 civil servants could be formally accused of involuntary manslaughter. However, the autopsy does not rule out the possibility of an accidental death. This case occurs within the broader context of controversy surrounding the Catalan Police and its use of force.
Another person recently died after a Catalan Police arrest
The El Vendrell case and the indictment of Catalan Police officers occur a few weeks after another scandal regarding this law enforcement corps, which was also related to the death of person during his arrest. In early October, Juan Andrés Benítez was arrested in Barcelona’s Raval neighbourhood for being involved in a fight on the street. Videos from witnesses show how the Catalan Police officers used force to control him and continued to do so while he was already on the ground. Several witnesses affirm police officers beat up the victim. Benítez died a few hours later from a heart attack. The judge is now investigating if the death was provoked by the blows received from the Catalan Police, from blows received from the fight he was involved in previous to his arrest, or for other reasons.
A 10th officer is indicted for the Raval case
8 police officers were initially indicted for Benítez’s case but the judge decided to add a 9th officer for allegedly eliminating evidences and obstructing justice. In addition, this Wednesday it has been announced that a 10th officer has also been indicted for the Raval case. A witness declared that this Catalan Police Force officer had asked her to erase the video she had made of Benítez’s detention, showing how he had been arrested.
The Catalan Police is under scrutiny
The Raval case generated a huge controversy in Catalonia, since it was not the first time Catalan Police was involved in a violence abuse case. Some of these cases have happened in the last few months, such as the complaint filed by a journalist accusing police of physical aggression. However, the most famous one is the controversy around the anti-riot Brigade and their use of rubber bullets.
Besides, on the investigation of Benítez’s death, the involvement of the Spanish Police and the use some Spanish Nationalist media and politicians have made of this case have also contributed to increasing the controversy. In fact, the Catalan Police have been a preferred target for Spanish Nationalists since they started to assume police tasks in Catalonia in the late 1990s. They started to assume police tasks because many Catalan citizens felt totally alienated from the Spanish Police Force (CNP), which was associated with the repression during Franco’s Fascist dictatorship and had a significant record of police abuse. However, some parts of the Spanish establishment did not fully accept the police change in Catalonia.
Spanish Police is still present in Catalonia, despite power devolution
There have been attempts to discredit the Mossos d’Esquadra, as well as attempts to by-pass them and exclude them from investigations taking place in Catalonia. In fact, the Spanish Police (CNP) still have around 7,000 officers in Catalonia – without taking into account the Guardia Civil – and their number is growing in the last few months. Meanwhile, the Catalan Police comprises around 17,000 individuals and does most of the police work except international organised crime cases (such as terrorism and drug trafficking networks), immigration-related cases and border control.
In the Benítez case, the Spanish Police were requested by the judge to act as judiciary police and issue an investigation report on the facts, instead of using the Catalan Police internal affairs department. In Catalonia, Catalan Police normally act as judiciary police. This has also caused some controversy since some people see the inclusion of the Spanish Police in Benítez’s case as a way to further discredit the Catalan Police, although the decision was taken by the judge investigating the case.