Spanish pie-throwers facing jail terms

AFP, MADRID

Wed, Nov 20, 2013 - Page 6

A Spanish prosecutor is demanding a prison sentence of five years for four men accused of splattering cream pies over a top regional official to protest a high-speed railway scheme.

The defendants were accused of the pie attack against the head of government for the Navarre region, Yolanda Barcina, during an official visit to the southwestern French city of Toulouse in October 2011.

All four reportedly denied being in Toulouse at the time of the protest against a railway project as the case opened on Monday at Spain’s top criminal tribunal, the National Court.

Accusing them of a “criminal attack against authority,” the prosecutor has called for a sentence of five years in jail and a fine of 2,700 euros (US$3,650) for each of the accused.

The victim of the cream pie assault, represented in the court as a civil party, has called for a harsher punishment of up to nine years for the accused.

“I was totally disoriented because, as I said, it was a strong hit with a pie, because it hurt, it hurt a lot,” Barcina said in testimony that was broadcast on public television.

“Another two hits with pies and I got up. I think it was almost by instinct because I was totally disoriented, because logically the meringue prevented me from seeing,” she said.

Her lawyer has demanded nine years in jail for one of the accused, Gorka Ovejero, because of the aggravating factor that he is an elected official in the Navarre municipality of Arruazu, and six years for the other three: Julio Martin, Ibon Garcia and Mikel Alvarez Forcada.

“Opposition to the high-speed train is always criminalized,” Ovejero told the court. “The fact that they use a known figure in such a position to criminalize the whole movement; I cannot get to grips with what is happening.”

About 50 protesters against the railway project rallied outside the court in the Madrid district of San Fernando de Henares to show their support for the accused.

Activists opposed to a plan to build a high-speed railway link with France through Spain’s Basque Country and Navarre regions had claimed responsibility for the pie protest.

Barcina, 53, was seated at a public meeting in Toulouse when she was approached by three protesters, who each pushed a cream pie into her face and onto her head.

She had to change clothes before returning for the end of the meeting, which gathered officials from French and Spanish regions.