Scot in provisional detention for a month over Pablo Hasel imprisonment protests

William Aitken behind bars after court deems him a flight risk and because of extradition problems due to Brexit, says his lawyer

Demonstrators in Barcelona burn rubbish containers during the protests against the arrest of Pablo Hasel in February, 2021 (by Laura Fíguls)
Demonstrators in Barcelona burn rubbish containers during the protests against the arrest of Pablo Hasel in February, 2021 (by Laura Fíguls) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

March 18, 2021 07:36 PM

A Scottish man, William Aitken, has been in provisional detention for exactly a month now after being arrested on February 17 while taking part in the protests against the imprisonment of rapper Pablo Hasel

Talking to Catalan News, his lawyer, a member of the Alerta Solidària organization, says he is the only person that was arrested during the riots who is still behind bars aside from the eight individuals who allegedly attempted to burn down a local Barcelona police van on February 27. 

According to them, the reason the judge has cited for keeping him imprisoned is that because the UK is no longer part of the EU, it is no longer part of the European arrest warrants system either. This means that, if Aitken were to flee, it would be very difficult to extradite him. 

The magistrate argues that, due to Brexit, the rules for handing in individuals "return to the traditional extradition system and international agreements based on the principle of not extraditing nationals," explains Aitken's lawyer. 

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 the European arrest warrants." 

"He is in prison because he is a foreigner," say the same sources.

Defense team's arguments for his release

Indeed, the trade and cooperation agreement between the UK and the EU sets the groundwork for extraditions between both territories (page 332) similar to European arrest warrants. 

This is one of the arguments the defense has put forward in their allegations to request the end of the pre-trial detention – a hearing will be held on March 24. 

In the appeal, the defense also tries to persuade the court that he poses no flight risk because Aitken has "settled down" in Barcelona. He has been living in the city for four years, has worked at the same company for a long time and his partner is a Spanish national. 

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 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.  

Other individuals in provisional detention

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 eight 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 eight protesters, six are Italian citizens—five men and one woman—in addition to one French woman and a Spanish woman.