Case Studies

Flavia Totoro: The disappearing trial


Flavia, a Chilean citizen living in Madrid, was arrested at a demonstration in 2011.

The demonstration was in protest against public funds being used to pay for a visit to Spain by the Pope. What started as a good natured event changed with the arrival of counter protestors and the police.

The police began forcefully removing protestors, and as Flavia was leaving she was involved in an altercation with a police officer. Flavia was charged with assaulting a police officer, for which she faced two years in prison. Flavia has always denied the allegations, saying that the police were kicking her and her friends’ legs and pushing them as they tried to leave the march.

For five years Flavia waited for progress in her case, with the potential consequences hanging over her for every day. Flavia was released from police custody but still had to report to the authorities every 15 days.

After a delay of five years, Flavia’s case started to progress, but her case was being grouped together with seven other activists from the protest that she did not know. They were offered a deal. They could avoid a trial by pleading guilty to avoid a prison sentence. However, the prosecutor made clear that because the eight accused were being considered as one, they all had to agree to the plea. Flavia wanted to go to court and prove her innocence, but that might mean that her co-accused ended up in prison.

One of Flavia’s co-defendants was a young man facing six years in prison. Flavia didn’t feel it was fair to insist that the group went to trial when it could result in others ending up in prison. In the circumstances, Flavia agreed to plead guilty. Any prison time was converted to a fine as a result of the plea and the other activists also had any sentences reduced to fines.

Flavia now has a criminal record, which means that she has two years on probation, she cannot travel to the United States, cannot be arrested, because the moment she is arrested or detained she will be imprisoned immediately, and she cannot go anywhere near another demonstration or protest.

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