Dani Gallardo, the activist ignored by the Spanish left

The trial of the Spanish activist kicks off after one year in pre-trial detention

The Spanish left’s poor show of interest in Dani Gallardo’s case is “hardly a surprise” for the Andalusian activist’s close circle. The 23-year-old man from Cadiz was arrested on 16 October 2019 during a street protest against the Supreme Court ruling [that convicted the Catalan leaders behind the 2017 failed independence bid]. Since then Dani Gallardo has been held in pre-trial detention in Madrid’s Alcalá-Meco facility. While his situation has caused outrage in Catalonia and representatives of the Catalan pro-independence parties (ERC, JxCat and the CUP) have visited him in jail, the PSOE and Podemos —the Spanish left— have kept quiet about the case. This week the Spanish government’s spokesperson, María Jesús Montero, and Pablo Echenique (Podemos’ spokesperson in the Spanish parliament) were asked about Gallardo’s case at a press conference and both showed that they were wholly unfamiliar with it. Dani Gallardo’s trial is due to start this Friday and the second session is scheduled for 17 November.

Echenique said that “I’ll refrain from taking a position on the matter, as I don’t know the details of the case, but I can and will say that we have witnessed strange things in Catalonia”. He clearly didn’t know that Gallardo’s “strange thing” had actually happened in Madrid’s Plaza de la Villa. The Public Prosecutor is pushing for a six-year prison sentence —four for assaulting a police officer and two for public disturbance— because of an aggravating circumstance: Dani Gallardo allegedly hit the policeman on the helmet with a club with nails while the officer was holding his friend Elsa, who also faces charges. At the protest police chased a mob that, according to the Prosecution, had damaged street furniture and was building a barricade when one of the officers apprehended Elsa. It was then when Gallardo tried to help her.

The testimony provided by the officers involved has prevailed throughout the examining phase of the case, even though it is the only incriminating evidence. Still, the judge and the court of appeals have always given it credence over the defendant’s own statement. “When I tell them about my case, all the inmates here are surprised that I’ve been locked up at all. Considering this would be my first conviction and I don’t have a criminal record, they can’t understand why I’ve been held on pre-trial detention when other defendants in more serious cases are released pending trial”, said Dani Gallardo in an interview on TV3, the Catalan public broadcaster, only hours before the trial begins.

Gallardo’s lawyer, Karim Benamar, told this newspaper that he is aiming for his client to be cleared of all charges and will try to prove that he did not hit the officer with a stick by summoning eye witnesses who will attest to it. However, he realises that the court may feel inclined to endorse the version provided by the police and will then aim for as short a sentence as possible arguing that the alleged blow can’t have been hard enough to cause bodily harm to the police officer. Benamar intends to produce evidence showing that a police helmet is sturdy enough to withstand such a hit. Furthermore, he will point out that the medical report detailing the injuries allegedly sustained by the policeman was issued an hour earlier than the time of the incident itself as noted in the police report: half past ten versus half past eleven.

A demonstration of support

The trial will start with Gallardo’s testimony and he intends to answer the questions posed to him by his counsel as well as the prosecutor. Prior to that, a demonstration will be staged outside Madrid’s Audiencia Provincial court by the Movimiento Antirepresivo, the group that has denounced Gallardo’s detention from a political standpoint all this time. The slogan of the demo is “Over one year in jail for showing solidarity with the Catalan people”. A number of Catalan representatives are expected to turn up, including the JxCat spokesperson in the Spanish parliament, Laura Borràs, ERC MPs Carolina Telechea and Montse Bassa, and CUP lawmaker Mireia Vehí.

“I believe that, following the riots in Barcelona city, they didn’t like it when so many people in Madrid came out to show their support because Madrid is the capital city of this State which they defend so much. I guess they just don’t realise that there is no hatred towards Spain or Spaniards. […] Rather, it is a clear aversion to the regressive, antiquated way of running this State, one that doesn’t seem likely to change at all”, Gallardo noted during the tv interview.

Once the first people to stand trial over the protests staged against the ruling had been cleared in Catalonia —Ibrahim and Charaf had spent eight months held on remand— Dani Gallardo is looking forward to following suit, even though part of him remains skeptical.

El + vist

El + comentat