In a victory for the freedom to engage in peaceful protest, 16 activists from Greenpeace Spain, along with a freelance photojournalist – together known as the #Cofrentes17 – were yesterday acquitted by a court in Valencia of causing public disorder and injury for calling attention to the dangers of nuclear power, during a protest in February 2011.
Nearly four years ago, the activists entered the 30-year old Cofrentes nuclear power plant, some 60 km from Valencia, and painted “Peligro Nuclear” (Nuclear Danger) on one of the plant’s cooling towers.
Their argument rested in part on Article 45 of the Spanish Constitution that, “Everyone has the right to enjoy an environment suitable for the development of the person, as well as the duty to preserve it”.
This didn’t stop prosecutors from demanding prison sentences of two years and eight months for each of the #Cofrentes17. And Greenpeace Spain risked being saddled with a fine, and paying compensation to the operator of the plant, Iberdrola, that would have amounted to nearly €360,000.
Rejecting this, the court ordered the 16 activists to pay costs of €2,232 for damaging a fence around the plant, along with a daily fine of €6 over a six-month period, amounting in total to €17,280.
The freelance journalist who was reporting on the protest faces no costs or fines.
This is a welcome outcome that underlines the essential freedom of journalists to pursue their legitimate news gathering activities without fear of prosecution. Any other result would have had a ‘chilling effect’ on journalistic freedom in Spain.
Mario Rodriguez, Greenpeace Spain’s director, was delighted by the verdict.
“The ruling shows that the protest at Cofrentes was peaceful and did not result in any injuries. It’s an important blow against attempts to criminalise peaceful protest and environmental activism. Greenpeace Spain has a 40-year history of peaceful activism and this verdict only serves to strengthen our resolve to continue our work of protecting the environment.”
The court’s verdict makes it clear that the activists were justified in protesting against nuclear power and drawing public attention to plans to extend the life of the ageing nuclear plant.
The judgement is not yet final, however. Appeals against the verdict may be lodged with the provincial court during the coming 10 days.
In the meantime, Greenpeace Spain wishes to extend its grateful thanks to the thousands of supporters from around the world who took to social media to support the #Cofrentes17, as well as the nearly 200 organisations and individuals who publicly supported the activists and the photojournalist.
Andrew Kerr works on Greenpeace International’s press desk.
via Greenpeace news http://ift.tt/13acwTd http://ift.tt/eA8V8J