Zapatero gave in to ETA prisoner's blackmail: polls

5th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

5 March 2008, MADRID - Most Spaniards reject the decision to lighten the prison conditions of ETA terrorist Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos, according to two surveys.

5 March 2008

MADRID - Most Spaniards reject the decision to lighten the prison conditions of ETA terrorist Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos, according to two surveys.

The polls, published in El Mundo and ABC dailies, also found a majority of citizens feel the socialist government gave in to blackmail by the Basque terrorist group.

The El Mundo poll, carried out by the Sigma-2 firm, which conducted 800 telephone interviews, concluded that 62.9 percent of those surveyed felt that the government's decision to release De Juana was "bad" or "very bad."

De Juana, who was on a hunger strike for 115 days, abandoned his protest on Thursday after the government ameliorated his prison situation in a move that has received heavy and harsh criticism from many commentators.

The prisoner was transferred from a Madrid hospital to a hospital in the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian, in the Basque Country, where he will recover from his hunger strike and afterwards will complete the remaining year or so of his sentence under house arrest in his own home.

Most of the people surveyed - some 57.2 percent - said the ETA member's hunger strike had not placed him in a life-threatening situation that would justify his transfer to house arrest, and 34.4 percent said they did not believe that he really had been on a hunger strike, although 52.9 percent said they believed he truly was refusing to eat.

A larger majority - 68.3 percent - said they thought De Juana had been given a special break while 40.3 percent said they thought the government and ETA had agreed to his release "as part of a secret deal."

In addition, 57.9 percent of those surveyed said they felt the government had given in to blackmail by the violent separatist ETA - which has killed more than 830 people in its four-decade-long campaign to carve out an independent Basque state from parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

A further 62.4 percent said that the Socialists would pay an electoral cost for their move.

The ABC poll, consisting of a total of 607 telephone interviews carried out by Metroscopia, found that 64 percent of Spaniards disapproved of the lightening of De Juana's prison sentence and 55 percent said that the government had succumbed to ETA blackmail.

On Sunday, dozens of citizens of the Spanish capital, meanwhile, left bunches of flowers in the Plaza Dominicanca in a spontaneous homage to De Juana's victims.

In that plaza on 14 July, 1986, 12 Civil Guard officers died in a car-bomb attack in which De Juana participated, and on Sunday morning more than 80 floral offerings and several candles had been placed anonymously at the intersection of Principe de Vergara and Costa Rica streets.

Attached to one of the largest bunches of flowers was a note proposing "a joint reaction by the citizenry - but individual and completely anonymous - in memory of and support for the victims, leaving flowers all weekend in those places where De Juana Chaos participated in terrorist acts".

Last Thursday night, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Interior Ministry in Madrid to protest the granting of a more lenient prison sentence for De Juana - who had been sentenced to 3,000 years behind bars for his deadly terrorist attacks - and to demand the prime minister's resignation and the urgent calling of new general elections.

The "etarra," or member of ETA, who has 25 murders on his record for which he served 18 years in jail thanks to the terms of the old criminal code, should have left prison last August, but two articles he wrote while behind bars were ruled by judges as containing threats and incitements to terrorism, which brought him another conviction that he attempted to counter by going on a hunger strike.

Interior minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said he was prompted by humanitarian concerns to order De Juana's transfer to house arrest after physicians told him that "the risk to his life at the current time is very high and (the risk) of permanent consequences is even greater".

"I am convinced that had I not made this decision, Ignacio de Juana would have died in prison in the coming weeks. That is what the different medical reports I have at my disposal make clear," Perez Rubalcaba said.

He acknowledged that "many citizens think that (De Juana) does not deserve this humanitarian treatment because he did not have mercy on his victims."

"And they are right, but one difference between the terrorists and us is that we respect life ... In that resides our superior moral legitimacy. We establish that in our constitution and in our laws," he said.

"The state must, in the first place, apply the law and this is a legal decision. The state has to be humanitarian, including with those who did not act thusly with their victims," Perez Rubalcaba said.

The move was received positively by the Basque regional government, which is led by moderate nationalists who repudiate ETA violence. Spokesman Josu Erkoreka said the interior minister's action was "impeccable" in judicial terms.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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