Halloween tragedy jail terms an ‘insult’: mum

Two years after five young women were killed in Madrid Halloween party disaster, the mother of one victim makes a passionate plea for justice as the case judge also slams Spain’s court system.

Halloween tragedy jail terms an ‘insult’: mum
Cheerleaders in Halloween costumes perform during a Euroleague basketball match in Madrid. Photo: DANI POZO/AFP

Isabel de la Fuente has described as “ridiculous” and an “insult” the short prison sentences sought by public prosecutors against those accused of causing or contributing to the death of five partygoers on Halloween night two years ago, when a massive crush inside the Madrid Arena indoor stadium took place after a series of errors on the part of the event’s organisers.

According to the news site, the prosecutor in the Madrid Arena case has asked for the main suspect, businessman Miguel Ángel Flores, to be sentenced to four years in jail for manslaughter caused by recklessness. Eleven other individuals who have been charged could get terms of three years, while the two doctors who were in charge of the venue’s sick bay that night face 18-month sentences.       

"The prosecution service has forgotten that we are talking about five dead people here, not just one; this is not the same as a road accident,”  said De la Fuente, the mother of Cristina Arce, who was just 18 years old.

Speaking the day before the second anniversary of the tragedy, De la Fuente asked for the trial to be held as soon as possible, adding that she was “sick of the lies and so many slaps in the face” arising from the attitude of the prosecution, which, she said, acted “more like a defence lawyer to the accused”.

The five young women were killed in the early hours of November 1, 2012, when a firecracker set off a stampede, trapping thousands of revellers inside a narrow passageway inside Madrid Arena. It has since been determined that tickets for the party were oversold and that security measures were inadequate for an event of its size. Madrid city council officials had been informed of the party but nobody alerted the emergency services until a few hours beforehand, which meant there was insufficient time to deploy the necessary number of ambulances and health personnel.

Two city council officials lost their jobs as a result of the tragedy, including former Deputy Mayor Miguel Ángel Villanueva.

Some of those charged by the investigating judge in the case, Eduardo López Palop, have appealed to try to avoid going on trial, delaying the process of justice for the victims’ relatives. "I think it is a disgrace that three years have to go by before those responsible for five deaths pay for what they did. My daughter has been in her grave for two years and she is never going to come back".

In an interview published on Friday in the newspaper El Mundo, Judge López Palop said he was still haunted by the deaths it fell to him to investigate. “I don’t know personally the families of the girls who died, but I can assure you that they have been constantly in my thoughts during the two-year investigation,” the examining magistrate said.

He showed sympathy for people who feel that they are unable to get justice in Spain due to the inadequate nature of the court system. “A country where justice does not work […] is a country where people have the vote, but it is not a democracy,” López Palop said, adding that the law governing the trial process in Spain was “from the end of the 19th century”. 

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