TARRAGONA, Spain – A mechanic in the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia has been accused of committing a hate crime for refusing to repair the car of a client who is a member of Spain’s national police, the mechanic’s attorney and regional police sources confirmed to EFE on Friday.
Jordi Perello, whose workshop is located in the small city of Reus – some 500 kilometers (311 miles) to the northeast of Madrid – said in an interview with local radio channel RAC 1 that he had decided to deny service to any law enforcement officers after the Oct. 1 incidents in Catalonia, in which 844 protesters were injured in clashes with police during an independence referendum deemed illegal by the Spanish judiciary.
He added that his right to refuse service was protected under the law.
According to his version of events, on Jan. 31 a woman called asking for a car repair. When the mechanic found out she was a national police officer, he said he would not do so because of his personal convictions.
A short while later, he claimed, the policewoman’s husband called to threaten him.
“You’re a piece of shit, I’m going to smash your face,” the husband – a member of Catalonia’s regional police force, known as the Mossos d’Esquadra – allegedly told him before hanging up the phone.
Perello said that the husband then showed up at the workshop in person and accused him of being racist and inciting hatred.
The men had a heated argument until two Mossos d’Esquadra patrol cars, whom the husband had called for backup, arrived at the scene.
Now the mechanic could face up to four years in prison for the alleged hate crime against members of the national police.
The outlawed independence referendum saw a dramatic spike in tensions in the prosperous region, as hundreds of police reinforcements from both the national police and the semi-militarized Civil Guard were dispatched and ordered to block the ballot.
The events, which pitted separatists against the Spanish government, triggered a huge debate on national identity, regionalism and the role of police.