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04/04/2011 - Brits lodge Criminal complaint for discrimination

Brits lodge Criminal complaint for discrimination against member of Andalucian Government

Twelve British members of AUAN (Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No) have lodged a criminal complaint against Josefina Cruz, Consejera for Public Works and Housing of the regional government of Andalucia for offensive statements made in Parliament earlier this month.

The Consejera is being sued for an alleged crime against the Spanish Constitution, specifically under Article 510.2 of the Criminal Code because of what the plaintiffs believe are discriminatory insults relating to statements made by the Consejera in a commission hearing of the Andalucian Parliament on the 9th of March 2011.

According to the Diary of Sessions of the Andalucian Parliament, the Consejera, in response to questions about the illegal houses in the region, is alleged to have stated, amongst other things “I do not know if your are defending the intrusion of people, do not know if your are defending the interests of a group of people who are not of this country, who have settled here illegally, do not know if you are defending these interests, ladies and gentlemen. I do not understand, I really do not understand”.

“I believe that I have said on this occasion that we have also had meetings about this with the British Ambassador, but I am interested in, I am concerned with the general situation, and I am not interested in the particular situation of a group of people who have settled illegally in our territory. I do not understand…, then, your confusion… I do not know if you are defending legality or not defending legality. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not know what you are defending , I do not know where you are coming from.”

“We are dealing with a problem which has resulted in Andalucian as a consequence of a lack of respect for the culture of the territory, and the culture of the land and the culture of planningand therefore, it is necessary to adapt, we must give a response within the law, within urban planning, within territorial planning, and with respect for all the legislation relating to protected land, forested land, land protected by rights of way, coasts, etc, etc, etc (…)

Tomorrow I have scheduled a meeting in Almanzora, ladies and gentlemen. Tomorrow I have scheduled a meeting with the Mayors. Ladies and gentlemen, I will meet with the mayors, who are responsible for planning in their municipalities, and from them, one can give information to affected residents, whether they are in an organisation or not in an organisation, whether they bought in good faith, or not in good faith, and who are now demanding that we resolve a problem that they are responsible for creating”.

AUAN alleges that these comments, which were later endorsed before the press, are not acceptable in a democratic state that is also a member of the European Union. They are also gravely offensive to many “people from another country”, to use the Consejeras words, who invested all of their life savings in a house in Spain, having being assured that they had all legal permits, only to find that they risk losing their home.

According to Maura Hillen, president of AUAN, “the members of our association who have made this complaint are victims of the chaotic planning system in Andalucia, which has clearly failed and continues to fail. They were assured that everything was alright when they bought their homes and now find themselves immersed in legal proceedings that could result in the demolition of their house.

In some cases it is actually the regional government who has challenged the building license granted by the town hall. In other cases the town hall or the promoter is subject to a criminal investigation. In none of these cases is the homeowner considered to be at fault.

Because of this, and because of the situation in which thousands of people find themselves, the plaintiffs cannot let the remarks of the Consejera pass because they are offensive and discriminatory and give completely the wrong impression.”

Hillen added “These comments were not issued by just anybody, but by a member of the regional government of Andalucia. In fact, the person charged with resolving the urban planning mess in that region. The comments are incorrect and completely misguided. If we do not take action we run the risk of inciting others to take the same view as the Consejera”. She concluded, “This is playing with too many peoples lives. We have to draw a line somewhere. If I was the Consejera, I would resign”.

The case is being brought by Bernardo del Rosal Blasco, a well know criminal lawyer and a former Ombudsman in Valencia who is also acting on behalf of Lliber residents in a criminal case against town hall officials, developers and legal representatives.