Photo via Telam

A criminal tribunal yesterday sentenced former picketer and now former Kirchnerite leader Luis D’Elía to four years in prison for occupying a police station in the neighborhood of La Boca in 2004. The tribunal also determined he won’t be eligible to hold public office for twice as long and won’t be able to leave the country without its previous authorization.

However, D’Elía won’t go to prison just yet. He can appeal the decision – and will – and would only be put behind bars if the Cassation Court, the highest criminal court in the country, confirms the tribunal’s ruling.

In case you don’t know what this whole thing is about, here’s a brief recap: in 2004 D’Elía, then a deputy in Buenos Aires’ Provincial Congress, led the mentioned occupation, protesting the death of , Martín “Oso” Cisneros, a social leader who was close to D’Elía. Along with 40 other people, he claimed an officer working at that station had killed him, and demanded he be arrested.

By being involved in these events, Judges Julio Panelo, José Martínez Sobrino and Fernando Canero determined D’Elía committed five crimes: attack against authority, minor injuries, instigation to commit felonies, illegal deprivation of liberty and usurpation.

In the same sentence, the tribunal also ruled over another set of charges that had been pressed against D’Elía – which had nothing to do with the occupation – for having led a march supportive of the Victory Front (FpV) at the same time another march protesting against measures implemented by the Kirchner administration was taking place. For this, D’Elía was accused of inciting collective violence, but the tribunal found him not guilty.

However, in a curious turn of events, it was this last case which made it possible for the tribunal to sentence him in the other one: had the march one not existed, the charges for the occupation would have exceeded the statute of limitations and it would have not been possible for him to be tried.

When given time to “say his final words” before the ruling was read, D’Elía assured that, like other Kirchnerite political leaders, the reason he was being tried at that moment answered to a “judicial persecution” led by the Macri administration. “[they] are seeking to punish social protests. I am a symbol of the protests that took place during the 1990’s and this trial is being conducted at Macri’s request with the sole purpose of putting me in prison,” D’Elía said. He substantiated his point by arguing that the prosecutor in the case didn’t request for anyone else to be sentenced.

After hearing the sentence that effectively determined he should go to prison, D’Elía came out of the trial and told press that “if I have to go to prison for four years for this, at age 60 and after 40 years of activism, I will do it with pride and dignity and my head held high.” He then addressed the roughly 400 people who had gathered outside the courthouse to support him and told them “there’s no conviction that can stop us.”