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Drug trafficking, money laundering and rape: 70 innocent prisoners who had to be compensated by the state in three years

In June 2019, the Constitutional Court established that a person acquitted in a court case after undergoing preventive detention has the right to compensation. Since then, according to rulings, various courts have forced the Ministry of Justice to pay a total of more than 887,000 euros to 70 prisoners who were temporarily detained for drug trafficking, rape or money laundering. And who eventually acquitted or saw their case shelved.

The case that opened the ban was that of Mohammed SA, who spent almost a year in pre-trial detention from July 2008 to July 2009 accused of attempted murder, of which he was eventually found guilty. He and other men were on trial in a Barcelona court accused of beating and stabbing two people on Rambla del Raval, but were acquitted. The judges suspected that the victims changed the trial “due to some kind of silence pact”, but a lack of evidence led to their acquittal.

His case went to the Constitutional Court a decade later, and magistrates decided to declare unconstitutional a section of the Judiciary Act that allowed compensation for pre-trial detainees, but only if they were acquitted or released for “lack of alleged wrongdoing”. . In other words, an acquittal was not sufficient for lack of evidence, but because the fact investigated had never occurred, which was a much more restrictive criterion. The Constitutional Court ruled that this compensation belonged to those who were acquitted or released by order of free release, without nuances, if the prisoner was harmed.

The Pakistani-origin man’s case sparked the first of a potential avalanche of appeals to the Constitutional Court, when the plenary instructed the nation’s highest court to review the denial of compensation to 45 acquitted prisoners who unsuccessfully sought reparations. Just a few thousand euros. Among them, several were acquitted for their participation in the 11-M attacks in Madrid and the 11-S attacks in New York, in various operations against jihadism such as Tigris or Nova, in macro lottery ticket frauds such as Nilo operation or justified robbery, money. money laundering, drug trafficking, murder or assault.

The National Court and the Supreme Court have also taken into account the constitutional ruling and have since awarded compensation to 70 people who had undergone preventive detention and were later acquitted. The compensation, which does not count the interest earned over the years, amounts to more than 887,000 euros. Another 25 were denied for various reasons: their case was temporarily closed, not final, or there were errors throughout the appeal.

Most were acquitted at first instance, and some had to wait for the Supreme Court, while a minority were dismissed on dismissal orders during the investigation phase. Some of them requested to be in pre-trial detention for a month and a half, while others spent more than three years in pre-trial detention, waiting for a favorable decision. The lowest compensations awarded by the courts are up to 1,000 euros and in some cases exceed 50,000 euros.

The higher compensation was recognized by the Justice and affirmed with reservations by the National Court. Romano van der Dusen, the Dutch national who spent more than a decade behind bars accused of raping and murdering three women in Fuengirola, has been acquitted thanks to new DNA evidence and awarded almost €150,000 in compensation. Another €60,000 compensation was awarded to a woman who spent 579 days in prison accused of murdering her newborn in Melilla before being acquitted. A man who spent more than 1,000 days in jail for child abuse has been acquitted by judges of €69,000. More than 50,000 more were recognized by one of the civilian guards of Molet del Valles, who was acquitted after being convicted of collaborating with drug traffickers and being part of a “port gang”.

The Supreme Court decided the last case a few days ago. Judges awarded €5,000 in compensation to the heirs of the now-deceased woman, who was jailed for nine months at the time for a murder in which she was not involved. He wasn’t even on the bench, and the case was filed on a temporary basis, the type of dismissal that national courts have found insufficient for compensation at least a dozen times.

“After studying the actions of the case and analyzing the accompanying circumstances, we verify the existence of essentially equivalent reasons that determine the free release,” the judges say in order to recognize compensation, thus developing a doctrine that is not fully established in the national court. This has been said in up to three decisions of the High Court: a temporary release which may be reopened may also result in one of these compensations.

According to the latest data from the penitentiary institutions, in 2021 there were 8,849 people in preventive detention in Spanish prisons. Data from the Ministry of Justice also show that most complaints about miscarriages of justice or wrongful imprisonment are rejected each year: for example, in 2019, 1,056 were rejected and 83 were administratively evaluated, which is more than 7% of the total.

In that year, two petitions regarding preventive detention and six regarding abnormal functioning of justice were assessed. The data does not show how much money was paid in these concepts, but in 2019-2020 the Ministry of Justice administratively recognized 3.6 million in all kinds of lawsuits and another 1.3 million more after a favorable court decision. This includes concepts such as undue delay in court proceedings, embargoes or lost evidence, not just the adoption of preventive detention.

In these cases, judges consider the consequences for each person, sometimes spending more than three years behind bars for crimes they did not commit. For example, in 2020 a national court awarded €9,000 in compensation to a man who spent 1,012 days in an Asturian prison for a murder he did not commit. He said his entry into prison “disrupted my normal life” and that when he was released after three years, he faced “the disruption of his whole social environment”. A person accused of such a serious crime, even if acquitted, “should try harder than all of us to have the same credibility as the average citizen,” he explained.

Another man was paid €10,600 to spend a year in prison for drug trafficking before being acquitted. When he was arrested and imprisoned, he was working in the agricultural sector in El Ejido and lost his job, and he was interned hundreds of kilometers away in Burgos prison. “The moral damage and suffering caused to a young man, with regular work and income, who knows he is innocent and does not deserve to be arrested and imprisoned for more than a year and do not know when he will be able to do it, is obvious. to be released considering that he had no criminal record and had never been in prison,” the statement said.

He spent a year and a day in prison and the sentence he was acquitted of shows that he was in the wrong place at the worst time. He was arrested at the flat of some friends in Miranda de Ebro during a police search but, the court heard, he had been spending the night there because he had met a woman he had met online. Sentencing after a year in prison, they explained that no witnesses had linked him to drug trafficking and his version, they said, was “solid and consistent”.

The jurisprudence on this issue, especially after the 2019 constitutional decree, undergoes changes and nuances. And it has not been something peaceful in the various litigation-administrative chambers of the National Court. One of the magistrates who studied a large part of the case, Francisco Díaz Fraile, issued a number of private opinions in which he questioned the granting of this compensation, as the legal panorama remained after the constitutional decision.

The matter was not calm in the halls of the Constitutional Court either. The first proposal, which paved the way for the rest of the cases, had another individual vote, that of then-Vice President Encarnación Roca, while the second was signed by Antonio Narvarez and Ricardo Enriquez. The former, for example, understood that the repealed article was legal and that, moreover, “it is the legislature, not the Constitutional Court, that is authorized to agree on this type of compensation.” The other two dissenting magistrates ruled in the same sense: “There is no objection to the constitutionality of this order.”

Source: El Diario





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