Six security guards at a juvenile detention center in Spain forcefully restrained 18-year-old Ilias Tahiri despite him showing no resistance.
The Provincial Court of Almeria has reopened the case of Ilias Tahiri, the 18-year-old Moroccan boy who died in custody at the Tierras de Oria juvenile center in Almeria, Andalusia, Spain.
Tahiri, from the northern Moroccan city of Tetouan, died on July 1, 2019, as six security guards forcefully restrained him to a bed.
The juvenile center, in its official report to Spain’s Civil Guard, claimed the security guards tried to immobilize the boy on his back, but his fierce resistance forced them to put him face-down on the bed. The report also claimed the fatal incident lasted only four minutes.
Leaked footage of his death, however, showed that Tahiri offered no resistance and the security guards restrained him for 13 minutes.
El Pais reported on October 30 that the Almeria provincial court reopened the case following an appeal from Tahiri’s family and the prosecutor’s office.
Contrary to Judge Teresa Ines Sanchez Gisbert, who closed the Ilias Tahiri case in January 2020 as an “accidental violent death,” the Almeria provincial court noted indicators of “reckless homicide.”
The court seeks to determine the responsibility of Spain’s Association for the Management of Social Integration (GINSO) in Tahiri’s death.
GINSO took administrative control over the Tierras de Oria juvenile detention center in 2015.
GINSO protocol stipulates minors should be immobilized face up unless medical professionals recommend an individual be restrained face-down. None of Tahiri’s medical reports recommended he be restrained face-down if he were to be immobilized, yet this is what happened on July 1, 2019.
Opposition to GINSO’s restraint protocol
International organizations discourage the practice of face-down restraint due to the heightened risk of suffocation and death. As well, the practice is contrary to the guidelines of the Ombudsman and the Regional Government of Andalusia, on which the management of the Tierras de Oria juvenile center ultimately depends.
The Provincial Court of Almeria, quoted by El Pais, said it agrees “with the prosecutor’s office that the existence of this protocol (for face-down restraint) does not exonerate the person … who imposed it or … knowingly complied.”
“It is true that the protocol of the center allows [face-down restraint], but what must be discussed … is whether it was adequate to preserve the integrity” of juveniles at the center, the court’s statement added.
The court requests the summoning of the legal representative of GINSO, which Spain has never convicted despite an accumulation of complaints of similar situations in other centers.
The court said it observed “reckless conduct … in the practice of prone immobilization by unqualified personnel and without evidence, based on video footage, of the presence of a doctor until the end, when nothing could be done for the deceased.”
Clear cause to reopen Ilias Tahiri’s case
As well, the court pointed out that the initial autopsy report of Ilias Tahiri ruled out suffocation as a cause of death. Coroner Dr. Sanchez Blanque instead determined the boy most likely died due to “cardiac arrhythmia” — despite her autopsy report describing clear signs of suffocation — and insisted “that the same has happened ‘in many cases.’”
In video footage of Tahiri’s death, “it can be seen clearly how the guards support for several minutes their bodies and knees on the head and limbs of the young man while he is lying face down and without offering any resistance,” the Almeria provincial court underlined.
The Provincial Court of Almeria “insists on the purging of the responsibilities of those who kept an inadvisable protocol in force,” El Pais reported.
The court’s statement concluded by stressing that it must determine whether or not the conduct of those present during Tahiri’s death was criminal.
The alarming footage of Ilias Tahiri’s death
The leaked footage exposing the circumstances of Ilias Tahiri’s death in June sparked outrage in Spain and Morocco. Nearly 25,000 people signed a petition demanding that Spain reopen his case and uncover the “crime buried under the shadow of racism.”
Video footage shows two security guards entering a small room with a bed and a desk. Two more guards follow, holding a handcuffed Tahiri by his arms. The guards throw the boy onto the bed.
Two more plainclothes men join in the efforts to restrain Tahiri, despite his lack of resistance.
The six guards take turns restraining him. As many as five guards appear to be restraining him at once at several points throughout the footage.
As the guards hold Tahiri down, two work to tie his arms and legs to the bed. At this point, Tahiri is limp, his face pressed to the bed.
The guards then lay a thick strap across the boy’s back. One checks for a pulse. He appears to find none but proceeds to add more restraints to Tahiri’s body. The same guard again checks Tahiri for a pulse then listens for signs of breathing several more times.
The end of the video shows Tahiri lifeless and face-down on the bed, 13 minutes after the ordeal began. A doctor arrives and confirms the boy is not breathing. He then begins unsuccessful attempts to resuscitate Tahiri.
Justice for Ilias Tahiri
The footage emerged as protests of the May 25 murder of George Floyd were still at their height across the globe. Ilias Tahiri’s brother Mounaim, speaking to Spanish outlet Publico in June, drew a parallel between the death of his brother and that of Floyd.
“The man they killed in America. The same. The same,” he said after watching the security footage of his brother’s death.
“I see that they have killed him. They checked his pulse a lot. And they look nervous among themselves. They realize and they have continued to tie him. His whole face is on the pillow. And a guy is on top of him. Of imagining it [and from] nothing else, I suffocate.”