Six activists face prison for illegal occupation after they rebuilt an abandoned Spanish village.
Six members of a collective that have been rebuilding an abandoned Spanish village are facing prison sentences after being found guilty of illegal occupation.
The tiny village of Fraguas, which sits in the mountains of Guadalajara, was emptied in the late 1960s as part of a reforestation programme and was later used as a training area for the Spanish army.
The collective arrived in the town five years ago and are showing no sign of abandoning their resettlement project.
Jaime Merino, a spokesperson for the group, told Euronews: "We have not stopped the reconstruction," adding that he plans to exhaust all legal channels to appeal the ruling.
The regional government opposed their activities and argues that the town lies in a public woodland within a nature park, therefore their presence is a fire hazard.
On Friday, Castilla-La Mancha's high court ruled that the group had unlawfully occupied the site. The six members were sentenced to 18 months in prison.
They were collectively fined €16,380, which could lead to a further three years in prison if they do not pay it.
They have also been ordered by the court to reimburse the regional government for the cost of demolishing the houses they built.
Spain's answer to Lapland
The area where Castilla-La Mancha lies is known as the Lapland of the south.
"We went to the Sierra de Guadalajara because we knew there were many villages there that are empty," Merino explains.
There are less than eight inhabitants per square kilometre. It is a region that has suffered from a rural exodus combined with an ageing population.
In Spain, abandoned towns are not unusual. The collective chose Fraguas because of its natural reserves. It has a series of springs, old orchards, and fruit trees.
A self-sufficient town
The group's aim is self-supply. They have installed a solar power system, which boasts 24 solar panels. They are also developing a hydroelectric system with a water turbine.
Merino says the group has integrated with the locals. The first thing he did was to rebuild the town's cemetery as a gesture of gratitude to former residents. He says "they loved it, it seemed like a wonderful idea."
Merino also says that one of the former neighbours, Isidro Moreno, gave them a book that he had written about the history of the town with photographs of the houses.
The collective then took it upon themselves to rebuild Isidro's uncle's house. His name was Cándido, so they renamed it after him.
Merino says "Casa Cándida" has a lounge, a library, and a kitchen. It is the centre of the group's operations. "We have three large buildings and three more modest ones," he said, where 13 to 15 people live.
Under Spain's land laws, it is illegal to build on public space. Merino defends the collective by saying that they have not built anything new but rebuilt what already exists.
He adds "we have detailed every action that we took and we have shown that we did not harm the environment."
According to him, Spain's public administration is creating obstacles for people who want to exit the city.
He says "you have to change the laws and make it easier for young people who want to leave the city, without a high economic cost. "
"Why are they so determined to destroy when we can rebuild a municipality, to reactivate rural Spain?" Merino asks.
He says that may be because the region is a hunting ground, which raises more money that way than it would from rebuilding a village.