Rodrigo Lanza keeps holding his innocence after being released from prison, where he was for five years condemned for homicide attempt to an urban police officer.
The so called “4F affair”, that has mobilized many people but not the media, got complicated with the suicide of Patricia Heras, one of the youngsters under arrest for the same case, and with the later sentence for tortures and false testimony of the police officers involved.
Jordi Mumbrú – Barcelona
Rodrigo Lanza was a 21-year-old boy when he entered the Young Persons Prison of Trinitat, Barcelona, after being charged of a serious crime that he has always denied. Some days ago, after seven long and arduous years, Lanza said goodbye to the adult prison of Quatre Camins, where he finished his sentence.
He entered the penal institution as a young offender and left it as an adult. Lots of things have changed after this nightmare, but many others stay the same. Rodrigo Lanza keeps claiming that he wasn’t the one who throw the stone that left the urban police officer quadriplegic that 4 February, 2006. The officer was making an identification control at the door of a squatted building where a party was being hold. Rodrigo was coming back from a family reunion late at night, but he claims he has a clear memory of the night that has marked his life. And he will try to demonstrate it: “I will take a sabbatical year, but after this I’ll keep on fighting to demonstrate I’m innocent”, explains Lanza by phone. His mother, Mariana Huidobro, has also fight very hard during all these years and she has never considered giving it up. They are determined to keep on fighting. “If it’s necessary to go to the Hague Tribunal, we’ll go” claims the young Chilean.
With the sentence already fulfilled, and after having rejected the various penitentiary blessings that were offered him in order to make him accept the charges, Lanza still has a “commitment”, as he explains: “Prison has reinforced my belief”, he says.
During all this time, mother and son have received the support of a group of friends and social movements that have been taken actions on the internet and on streets to make the case come to light. But they have found lot of obscurity, specially from media that, despite the persistent protests carried out by his mother, have preferred to remain in silence.
It’s a very complicated affair, where there are many doubts about what really happened that tragic night and also many tragedies, like the quadriplegic police officer and the suicide of Patricia Heras, a young woman who, after claiming she had not been at the scene of the events that night, was condemned to three years in prison.
That 4 February night, at the heart of the ancient zone of Barcelona, there were nine people arrested and a police officer seriously injured. “The god damn sudacas over here”, Rodrigo heard. At that very moment, he understood that being Chilean could mean a serious trouble and that it would have been better not to stop at the officer’s call. “It ain’t that I think I got the worst part for not being Spanish, the problem is that it’s true”, says Lanza.
While in prison, he had the sympathy of the rest of inmates for the kind of his charges, but he suffered the hate of jailers and institutions, as he denounces. “They made a great effort to make me complete my sentence to the end. Reprieves are only for police officers”, he criticizes.
The young Chilean maintains that he was tortured and made a report at the Instruction Central Court nº 18 of Barcelona, but it had been rejected. Amnesty International criticized that Lanza could not have access to the identification number of the police officers until eighteen months after the supposed tortures, and that he could only identify them in black and white photographs printed on an A4 paper.
The ones who did not get rid of their sentence were the detainees. In January 2008, the Provincial Court of Barcelona condemned Rodrigo Lanza to four and a half years of prison, and to three years and three months prison to the two friends that were with him that night. Patricia Heras was condemned to three years while the others detainees received slightly inferior sentences.
In June 2009, after the appeal presented by the defense, the Supreme Court revised Lanza’s sentence and decided to increase the prison sentence from the previous four-and-a-half-year to five. Rodrigo was two years in protective custody, one year released on bail, and three years more in prison. Behind bars he received the tragic news of Patricia Heras suicide, and he also found out that two of the urban police officers that declared against him during the trial had been condemned for torture and false testimony in another case.
After his released last December 29, Rodrigo Lanza decided to move to Zaragoza “looking for a change of scene”. “The last years I’ve been forced to stay in Barcelona”, he regrets.
The shadows of the case
An object from a balcony. The day after the incident Joan Clos, Barcelona’s mayor at that time, explained to media that a police officer had been injured after having received a plant pot at the back of his neck. Clos sustained that the the pot had been thrown from a balcony of a squatted place where a party had being held. This version, that would have absolved the detainees of any crimes giving the case that all of them were at the street and not inside the house, was suddenly changed to a different version where the plant pot turned out to be a stone thrown from someone at the street. According to this other version, the stone would have impacted a the the police officer face, who had fall backward and got a hit on his neck. Regardless of this new version, the Mayor kept his own’s during an interview televised during the trial and he added that his version was supported by a police report. But the Court opposed that the defense bring the Mayor as a witness and the report never came to light.
During the trial, four medical practitioners rejected the “stone hypothesis”, arguing that the way the police officer felt to the ground – backwards instead of collapsing – made this version senseless. Nor the pot, neither the stone with the detainees fingerprints were ever found. Rodrigo’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boyé, explained to eldiario.es that “Science said that it wasn’t a stone what caused the serious injuries but something thrown from a roof, that is to say that it couldn’t be any of the accused”, and he lamented that “judges were stronger than science”.
Condemned police officers. The magistrate that carried out the case was the same one that had to decide over the tortures report presented later by some of the detainees: “Even if one thousand more like you come to me, I will believe the police”, she said on that occasion. However, two of the police officers that declared in the trial are nowadays disqualified.
In October 2011, Barcelona urban police officers Victor Bayona and Bakari Samyang were condemned to two years and three months of prison and to eight years and three months of total disqualification for “completed crime of severe tortures” and “completed offense injuries”.
According to the sentence, 7 September 2006 the police officers molested a girl at the Bikini, a Barcelona night club, and when her companion called their attention they jumped over him and hit him. One of the officers even smashed a glass over his head.
The two officers were with three other colleagues. After the beating, they took the girl’s companion to a police unity, where they continued attacking and humiliating the detainee. Lanza’s lawyer, Gonzalo Boyé, pointed out that, even though this case is different from the “4F affair”, it’s obvious that these police officers aren’t very trustworthy” and criticized that the sentence that condemned the young detainees “was based in self-interested declarations of these some officers”.
The suicide. On 26 April 2011, Patricia Heras, the girl that was arrested in 2006 for the same case as Rodrigo, committed suicide. Heras was condemned to three years of prison for attacking a police officer during the struggle that took place at the Saint Pere Més Baix building. According to the sentence, the young woman threw a fence against one of the police officers.
Heras always denied the facts, claiming that she were not even at that place at the moment. According to her version, she was riding her bike with a friend when they fall down near Ciutadella Park. They were transferred by an ambulance to the same hospital where there were the police officers, and when thew saw what they thought a punk look, they arrested her. The ambulance driver testified during the trial but it was useless. She was condemned to three years of prison, but she could not stand it. At the end of April 2011, she committed suicide at her home while a prison furlough. Her death was a terrible shock to all the people concerned about the case.