The documentary film shedding light on Spanish police’s human rights abuses

Still from Citutat Morta (2014)
Still from Citutat Morta (2014)

A part of Catalonian society was in shock after watching the documentary “Ciutat Morta” (Dead City) was aired by Catalan television last month. The documentary gives voice to those in the ‘4F’ case, in which a number of young people claimed they were tortured by the Guàrdia Urbana, the police officers from Barcelona. The documentary had an audience of 569,000 viewers.

At the end, after many years of censorship, Catalan TV was forced to broadcast the documentary following public pressure.

Before the broadcast, the courts of Barcelona ordered 5 minutes of the documentary to be removed in which Victor Gibanel, the former head of Police information was interviewed.

“Ciutat Morta”, winner of several awards, denounced the network of political, police and judicial corruption, as well as the concealment of facts dating from 2006.

It all started with a police intervention, whose mission was to break into a party of a house under occupation, which led to a series of riots. During the police intervention, an agent fell into a coma after being hit by a blunt object.

The first official version said that this was caused by a flowerpot thrown from inside the building. The officers later said that it was actually a stone thrown from the street.

In this case, witnesses say they didn’t see any object thrown from the street, the defendants claim that they didn’t throw anything to the agents and experts say the wounds the agent had do not fit with the story of a stone thrown from the street. These claims could not be proven with evidence, because it is against the usual research procedures. It is believed also a cleaning brigade of the City of Barcelona proceeded to clean the area of the facts.

From there, the documentary reveals the excessive zeal from the police, and from the injured agent, to find a guilty person. This possible emotional involvement of the police has also been discussed by several specialists after the documentary aired.

The first people arrested were Rodrigo Lanza, Juan Pinto and Aleix Cisternas. Although none of them participated in the party (they were not even inside the building). They were brought to the police station and later reported that during the way and during the stay in the police station, they were the subject of acts of racism, torture and threats.

Rodrigo Lanza reports in the documentary that the agent, Bakari Samyang, repeatedly insulted his Latin American background while he was beaten in one of the rooms of the police station. “The pool of blood on the floor was bigger than me,” he says in the documentary.

Later, because of the injury received Lanza was taken to hospital – where police met another individual, Patricia Heras.

Patricia Heras was with a friend in the waiting room of the hospital due to a bicycle accident (she was not even in the area where events happened). Her appearance however led to her being accused and arrested for possible involvement in the F4 case.

During the trial only police witnesses were taking into consideration. The defense had vetoed the possibility of presenting evidences. Alex Cisternas and Juan Pintos went directly into custody, where they will spend two years before the conclusion of the trial. In addition, they face up to 3 years jail time. Rodrigo Lanza was sentenced to 5 years in prision, with two years of probation.

The accusations of torture by Alex Rodrigo and Juan against officers Victor Bayona and Bakari Samuang have yet to have any impact.

Patricia Heras, the unforunate cyclist embroiled in the case, was given 2 months in prison.Heras, who had previously experienced life behind bars committed suicide on 26 April 2011 before returning to prison.

“A Policeman stopped me in the street and literally told me ‘I will cut off your neck,” claims journalist Jesus Rodriguez, who participates in the 5 minutes of the censored documentary.

As well as accusations of violent abuse Ciutat Morta also explains the demand for 45,000 euros compensation filed by former chief of police information, Victor Gibanel.

Despite the seriousness of the allegations of torture, those involved were not questioned until the emergence of a new case that indicated the same agents.

On the night of 6 December 2006 Yuri Sarran Jardine, the son of a diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, was involved in a fight while trying to defend some friends of a group of men who were harassing them. The men took Yuri out of the club and beat him brutally. However, Yuri was arrested, accused of attempted assault. Yuri also claimed he was later the victim to violence from police officials. The acussed officers, Victor Bayona and Bakari Samuang were later revealed to be a part of this group.

At trial, the officers tried to accuse the young defendant of drug trafficking, claiming that he offered to sell them hashish. The defense of Yuri however proved that the boy was a student and was defending her friends. The conclusion of that case resulted in Bayona and Samuang receiving prison sentences for torture and false testimony.

On 26 January 2015, “La directa” (a Catalonian alternative newspaper) ran an interview with Yuri Serran Jardine by Xavier Artigas (director of the documentary “Ciutat Morta”).

“I tried to forget the time that I spent in that room, I thought I would die,” Yuri said in the interview.

Following these events, the victims of the 4f case attempted to reopen the case. The argument was that the only witnesses of the trial in which they were convicted were now in prison accused of false testimony and torture. In their judgment, they reported the same reasons but were again rejected.

They claim that at no time were government or their prosecution willing to negotiate the case.

However, the broadcast of Ciutat Morta on public television has been a tool to reopen the debate.

For the second time, young people have tried to reopen the case. This time with the support of various political groups, such as ICV-EUiA and CUP. These leftist parties made a statement with the intention to bring them to the Parliament in order to open an investigation on the apparent cases of torture.

However, the courts of Barcelona have answered that the case will be closed until further evidence will be presented. It also dismissed the testimony and arguments presented in the documentary “Ciutat Morta” , claiming to have no value as evidence.

After the broadcast of the documentary, many other victims spoke out about other cases of possible torture

The CPDT (Coordinator for the Prevention of Torture) has received 6,621 reports of torture in only 10 years throughout the state.

In 2013 alone, 252 cases, 45 of those in Catalonia, were reported.

José Martínez Díaz, a retired sergeant of Guàrdia Urbana has recorded a video explaining his experience relating to different suspicious procedures that he was witness to throughout his career in the police.

He also criticized the so-called facts “Nois de Gràcia”: (referring to the name of the district where the facts happened) Adrià Zayas, Ramón and Dani. They claim that they were abused by the police while the the closing of the popular house of Gràcia.

Those affected have held a press conference to explain their version of the events. It took place in 2005 in the neighbourhood of Gràcia. After an ilegal detention, they claim that were subject of torture.

Following the statements, the former police sergeant José Martínez Díaz was denounced by Evelio Vazquez, current head of the “Guardia Urbana”.

The local police in Barcelona, is the police that has received more complaints in the recent years in Barcelona.

The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Spain 6 times for its lack of an investigation into claims of torture.

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture at the European level also has spoken out on several occasions.

For more about Cituat Morta and to watch the film in full click here.


Albert Maurí is a Euroclash contributor from Barcelona. He has an interest in human rights in the context of capitalism and is a self-trained student of anthropology and sociology. He is also an avid photographer. You can view more of his work in photography here.


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