Path protesters face 30,000 euro fines

LAST UPDATED: 21 Apr, 2012 @ 18:36
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POLICE in Ronda have been accused of bias after they sent fines to 40 people who protested against the blockage of the international GR-7 footpath by developers behind the controversial Los Merinos golf complex.

An investigation is to be launched over claims the Guardia Civil issued the fines, which could rise to 30,000 euros, due to coercion and personal family ties with the security company working at the construction site.

The news comes after three foreign Ronda residents – including writer Alistair Boyd – were hit with a 22-million-euro lawsuit by the same development company, as exclusively revealed by the Olive Press (issue 15). They are claiming this amount after various backers pulled out of the 90-million-euro double golf course complex.

The 40 protesters, from Ronda and the nearby villages of Arriate and Cuevas del Becerro, received the fines on January 5.

“Mine came with the Three Kings. For a few minutes I thought it was a joke,” said Arriate resident Manolo Melgar. “Either way, I am far too old to be worried about something silly like this.”

In the denuncias, seen by the Olive Press, it is claimed the protesters took part in an unauthorised demonstration on November 5 last year.

It says they caused “a serious breach of order” and a large hold up for traffic.

According to the protesters, however, the 200 strong demonstration against the closure of one of Europe’s most important footpaths, which goes from Tarifa in Andalucía to Athens in Greece, was organised in advance with adequate notice given to police.

Furthermore, they argue, the protesters only blocked the road for 15 minutes and, with it being a Sunday, this affected fewer than 100 cars.

“It was entirely good natured and there was no danger to anyone. Nor was there any bad feeling,” said one protester.

Leader of the Izquierda Union political party Antonio Romero said he will ask Interior Mininster Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba to investigate what he believes are police actions motivated by personal concerns, rather than public interest.

He said: “The behaviour of the Guardia Civil in this case seems motivated not by general interest, but by their own.”

Arriate mayor Bernadino Gaona, in whose village five people have been fined, told the Olive Press: “The allegations seem strange and we are co-ordinating a campaign to get the fines rescinded.

“Closing the footpath is completely wrong and we are demanding it be opened again.”

His claims have been backed by Green Party leader, Francisco Garrido. He slammed the “passivity” of the Guardia Civil and their “aggressive attitude towards those being threatened.”

The police, however, even made a bigger mistake by issuing a fine to the leader of a local environmental group.

“I was on a day trip to the coast with 40 pensioners,” Alejandro Moreno of Ecologistas en Accion told the Olive Press.

“How the hell they can claim I was there is incredible. It is just another example of how the developers are persecuting campaigners like myself.”

The Los Merinos complex, which is being built on 800 hectares of virgin woodland inside a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, will consist of two 18-hole golf courses, 800 homes and three luxury hotels.

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