Hero or hoodlum? Spain split over fate of youth who killed thief to save woman

Debate raged in Spain on Thursday over the case of a young nightclub worker sentenced for manslaughter for killing a thief, after a far-right party raised over €100,000 ($112,000) for a compensation payment to help him avoid jail.

Hero or hoodlum? Spain split over fate of youth who killed thief to save woman
Vox are crowdfunding for Borja. Photo: Vox/El Mundo

In February 2015 the 22-year-old chased and punched a man in the head who had just stolen a woman's purse in the southern town of Fuengirola near Malaga, causing his death two days later from a brain hemorrhage.

A court in Malaga in December 2018 sentenced the man, identified as Borja W.V., to two years in jail and ordered that he pay €180,000 in compensation to the victim's two daughters. An appeals court upheld the ruling in April, although he has not yet been jailed.

In Spain prison sentences of under two years don't generally result in prison time being served if the convicted person has no previous criminal record. But the court threatened to jail Borja if he did not pay the compensation.

Spain's conservative media has focused on the case, especially after far-right party Vox launched a crowdfunding campaign on Tuesday to help Borja pay the compensation and avoid going to jail.

The campaign has so far raised at least €180,000.

Public prosecutors on Tuesday recommended that Borja's prison sentence be suspended and that he be given five years to pay the compensation. A judge has yet to rule on this recommendation.

Vox has proposed that Spain's gun regulations be reformed to make it easier to own a firearm and to ensure people who shoot home invaders are not prosecuted by the law, as is the case in the United States.

A top Vox leader, Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, called Borja “a hero” and “an example for Spanish society, who could end up in jail for having helped a “woman”.

Several legal experts, however, have defended the court's decision and accused Vox of using the case for political means.

“It is not self-defence to kill someone with their firsts after chasing them to recover a stolen bag and then leave without calling the police,” tweeted Joaquim Bosch, spokesman for Judges for Democracy, an association of judges and magistrates.

In an editorial, daily newspaper El Mundo said Borja “took justice into his own hand” and accused Vox of “populism”.

“Spain needs more respect for the law,” it added.   

Official statistics show that Spain's rates of homicide and burglary are lower than most of its European neighbours.

READ ALSO: Far-right Vox party wants to loosen Spain's gun laws 

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Spain church attack suspect to undergo psychiatric testing

The Moroccan suspect held in connection with a machete attack on two Spanish churches, killing a verger and badly injuring a priest, will undergo psychiatric testing, a court said Tuesday.

Spain church attack suspect to undergo psychiatric testing

The case is being handled by the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s top criminal court, with the judge in charge asking that “two doctors conduct a psychiatric evaluation of the suspect”.

The suspect, 25-year-old Yassine Kanjaa, was arrested at the scene after the attacks on two churches in the southern town of Algeciras last week.

The Audiencia Nacional said the psychiatric evaluation, which will be carried out by doctors from the court’s forensic department, would provide “information about the legal responsibility” of the “presumed jihadist”.

Prosecutors have opened a terror probe and, on Monday, the court remanded the suspect in custody without bail on murder and terrorism charges.

During the deadly incident on January 26th, the suspect entered San Isidro church and attacked its priest with a machete, leaving him seriously wounded before entering Nuestra Señora de La Palma.

There he attacked the verger and chased him out of the church where he killed him.

‘Targeted priests and infidels’

Court details released on Monday said the attacker had also injured three other people, including another Moroccan man whom he “considered an infidel” because he had renounced his faith.

It said Kanjaa’s actions could be “qualified as a jihadist attack directed at both priests who profess the Catholic faith, and Muslims who, according to the suspect, don’t follow the Koran”.

The court said the suspect fits the profile of a “self-indoctrinated terrorist who acts individually without direct ties to a specific terror group but operates in the name of jihadist philosophy”.

Last week, Spain’s left-wing government refused to rule out mental illness and the police have described him as “unstable”.

The court said Kanjaa became indoctrinated “rapidly” within the space of up to six weeks, citing witnesses as telling police that just before that, he “was drinking alcohol and smoking hashish”. Then he suddenly started listening “regularly to the Koran on his mobile phone”.

One of Kanjaa’s neighbours told AFP something similar on Friday, saying he had changed radically six weeks ago, growing a beard and wearing a long robe.

Officials have said Kanjaa was served with a deportation order last June but had no prior convictions and was not under surveillance.