A mechanic from Reus accused of “hate crime” because he refused to repair a personal Spanish Police agent’s car
“The rule that regulates industrial activity protects me (…) I decided not to cater to Spanish police or Guardia Civil because of my principles”.
On January 31, Mr. Jordi Perelló, a mechanic from Reus, in Southern Catalonia, refused to repair a personal Spanish Police agent’s car. After the mechanic’s refusal to repair the car, the agent filed a case against the mechanic on the basis of “hate crime”, alleging that the mechanic decided not to fix her car due to her profession: being a “Policia Nacional” agent.
While for the the Spanish policewoman this implied a discriminative attitude aimed at “fuelling hatred”, for Mr. Perelló, as a private service supplier to the public, the decision was only based on his right of admission, which has nothing to do with hate crimes.
In addition, the Court responsible for that case has to deal with at least 15 more “hate crime” cases, arising after the 1st October’s Self-determination referendum’s police violence. Some of the accused are the mayor of the city of Reus and four firefighters.
The mechanic, Mr. Perelló, refused to repair the private police agent’s car, due to his disgust towards the violence exerted by Spanish Police forces against the population during the Catalan referendum of Self-determination of the 1st October 2017. During the day, many peaceful voters were hit by Spanish Police forces in various polling stations, in their attempt to prevent the referendum from taking place. The main consequence of the Spanish police repression was 1066 injured voters, and the destruction of many polling stations (which are typically public primary and secondary schools) due to the violence used by Policía Nacional and Guardia Civil. As a consequence of such actions, the mechanic decided not to accept jobs from the Spanish police forces, following the right of admission prescribed by Spanish law. Furthermore, he has a poster in the entrance that reads: “The Management reserves the right to refuse admission”.
A few days after the case was filed, the mechanic, Mr. Perelló, was heard in the trial. He only answered questions from his defendant and rejected answering any questions from the prosecutor and the State Attorney, who represented the Spanish Policewoman. The mechanic alleged that the legal rule that regulates industrial activity protects him, offering a right to deny any potential customer of his business. The case is provisionally filed since the judge stated that it cannot be considered as a “hate crime”.
Besides the mechanic’s personal circumstances, the Spanish government and unionist parties have been involved in the unjustified use of a new “hate crime offence”, against those in favour of the independence movement in Catalonia. Unionist parties are denouncing each expression of political divergence as a “hate crime” based on the attempted new use of the concept (originally aimed only at the protection of minorities). This generates a serious situation of insecurity in regard to freedom of speech, which is in direct conflict with the rule of law in Spain, and corrupts the criminal law and criminal code through wilful misinterpretations of the Spanish criminal code and the situations analysed therein.
The case of “the Mechanic from Reus” amongst others, has triggered debate surrounding – and against – the misuse of the term and concept of “hate crime” in a way that serves political interests aiming to curb ideological dissidence.
Likewise, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) has asserted in an interlocutory decree that the hate crime of article 510 of the Criminal Code can only be applied against those that incite the discrimination of vulnerable groups (minorities), but not against those who criticize or threaten the police forces.
In a demonstration on May, 2018 Mr. Perelló stated “I promised myself that I would never again have anything to do with these people” after seeing the police attacks on voters during the referendum. “It’s cost me a hate crime. It’s a version 2.0 of the Franco-era ley de vagos y maleantes,” he said, “they want us to be scared, but we are not nor will we be scared”. The ley de vagos y maleantes (vagrants and miscreants law) was a law about the treatment of various groups deemed anti-social, including beggars, pimps and “regular drunks”.
The Spanish law protects the right of admission by professionals (see Documents). Moreover, the jurisprudence has determined that the hate crime is only applicable in the case of minorities of any kind. It is obvious that the institutions of the state cannot be considered a minority that needs protection.
Despite the fact that the case has been provisionally filed, the mere admission to proceeding of such case denotes a lack of democratic culture of the Spanish judicial system.
An exhaustive article in a Spanish newspaper which explains that international organisms are criticizing Spain for its random use of hate crimes against the independence movement in Catalonia and each expression of dissent (in Spanish)
Leaflet of the Minister of Home Affairs which explains, what a hate crime is. Nothing indicated in it about discrimination based on denying the right of admission (in English).
Real Decreto 1457/1986, de 10 de enero, por el que se regulan la actividad industrial y la prestación de servicios en los talleres de reparación de vehículos automóviles de sus equipos y componentes art.13. It allows refusing the entrance to private businesses. It is limited by art.14 of the Spanish Constitution, which establishes the non-discrimination principle. (in Spanish)
Llei 17/2009, de 23 de novembre, sobre el lliure accés a les activitats de serveis i el seu exercici – This law regulates most of all service activities in Spain (in Catalan).
Arts. 19 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, regarding freedom of opinion and expression, right to peaceful assembly, right to participate in political life (in English)
Arts. 19 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights regarding pre-trial detention, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, right to participate in political life (in English)