SPAIN’S governing Socialist Party (PSOE) has filed a lawsuit with the public prosecutor after a group of far-right protesters hanged and beat with sticks an effigy of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on New Year’s Eve outside the group’s headquarters in Madrid.
Among the offences that the PSOE accuses the group of are threats to the government and the party, public disorder, unlawful assembly and hate crimes.
The more than 50-page lawsuit also points to far-right party Vox as being behind the demonstrations outside the PSOE headquarters in Ferraz street, which has been the location of near-daily and sometimes violent protests against the government since November.
The protests began when the PSOE closed two deals with Catalan separatist parties, offering an amnesty for anyone involved in the region’s independence drive over the last decade in exchange for support fo Sanchez’s bid to be voted back into power after the inconclusive general election on July 23.
The lawsuit states that the events of New Year’s Eve ‘overstep any political criticism and placed the PSOE and specifically Pedro Sanchez in the crosshairs’.
“The expressions used and actions carried out entail an illegitimate assault on the honour of the PSOE and of Pedro Sánchez,” the lawsuit continues, according to online daily El Español.
The document also includes photographs of the events of the night, as well as a full description of what took place.
“The rally brought together around 300 people, according to the central government’s delegate [in Madrid] […], with organisers bringing with them jars of grapes, a public address system, presenters and DJs,” it reads.
The lawsuit also seeks to link far-right Vox to the protests.
“The actions that led to the events of December 31 […] seem to have a common link through the political formation Vox, through de jure or de facto organisations that seem to be linked to the political party Vox, going further than the occasional support of representatives of this political formation,” the document reads.
The PSOE also points out that Vox leader Santiago Abascal recently made comments during an interview in Argentina that ‘the time will come when people will want to hang [Spanish Prime Minister] Pedro Sanchez by his feet’.
“The crowd shouted and chanted, ‘1, 2, 3, hang him by his feet’,” the lawsuit states.
Expert jurists have expressed doubts that the incident on New Year’s Eve can be considered a hate crime, but the PSOE has chosen to move ahead with the lawsuit regardless.
Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz, who is the leader of the PSOE’s coalition partner Sumar, also doubted whether the events could be a criminal offence.
“I think, if you will allow me, as a qualified lawyer, that hating is not a crime, it is a feeling, albeit a serious one,” she said, in comments reported by Spanish daily El Pais. “That said, in democratic terms, it is completely intolerable,” she added.
The apparent organiser of the protest, a 58-year-old man named Antonio Martinez, was called to a police station in Madrid on Wednesday to make a statement.
He refused to talk to officers once there, however, and told reporters outside that he had requested official permission for the demonstration as ‘a favour for Revuelta’.
He was referring to an organisation that has links to far-right Vox, a party that has been fiercely opposed to the Socialists’ deal with the Catalan separatist parties.
Martinez was not present at the demonstration, but he did set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for the event. Around €20,000 was collected from different donors, money that went to renting the audiovisual equipment and hiring staff.