Spain powerless as ETA’s bloodiest walks free

Spain powerless as ETA’s bloodiest walks free

4th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

The still-grieving terrorism victims can cry and howl, but there is nothing the Spanish judicial court can do to put De Juana behind bars.

MADRID - To howls of anger from ETA's victims, one of the Basque terrorist group's most bloodthirsty killers walked free from prison on Saturday.

Iñaki De Juana Chaos, an unrepentant ETA hit man convicted of murdering 25 people in the 1980s, left Aranjuez prison outside Madrid shortly after 7am, accompanied by his wife and two lawyers.

He had spent 21 years in prison, 18 for the murders for which he had originally been sentenced to more than 3,000 years, and three for making threats against prison officials.

"He has served less than a year for each of the people he has killed," cried one person at a demonstration held in Madrid's Plaza de la República Dominicana square to protest his release.

In that same location on 14 July 1986, De Juana set off a bomb that killed 12 Civil Guard officers in his bloodiest attack.

"I feel tremendous pain; I feel powerless," said Manuela Lancharro, who lost her brother in the bombing.

Supporter of ETA draws on the wall.The Spanish government echoed the victims' sentiments, with Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega saying from an official visit to Mexico that she found his release "repugnant".

"The government, like the vast majority of Spaniards, finds it repugnant that he is on the street," De la Vega said. "But we are better [than he is] because we respect the law."

Following his arrest in 1987, De Juana was found guilty two years later of 25 murders, and sentenced to 3,000 years in prison. However, under the Penal Code in force at the time, the maximum effective sentence in Spain was 30 years, which could be reduced through good behaviour, studying and work.

Through such concessions, De Juana reduced his sentence for the murders to 18 years and should have walked free from prison in 2005.

However, Spanish prosecutors put him back on the stand over two articles he published in radical Basque newspapers. He was found guilty of making terrorist threats, and after an appeal to the Supreme Court was sentenced to a further three years.

Following the new conviction, the 52-year-old terrorist began one of several hunger strikes that lasted until he was hospitalised and then placed under house arrest during a ceasefire called by ETA in 2006.

When the truce ended, De Juana was sent back to prison, where he remained until Saturday.

ETA bombed Barajas in December 2006.Government officials acknowledge that they have looked into ways of keeping him in jail, but have said they are legally powerless to intervene. Neither are they able to prevent De Juana from living in an apartment in San Sebastián close to the homes of several of his victims.

The apartment was recently bought in the name of De Juana's wife Irati Aranzabal with a EUR 360,000 mortgage in the name of her parents.

Though prosecutors have opened a fraud inquiry in the hopes of embargoing the apartment and are trying to determine whether De Juana has hidden assets, officials say the prospects are slim.

"We can see no legal measures. We don't want to mislead anyone, nor create false expectations," Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba admitted recently.

De Juana owes millions of euros in compensation to his victims, but has declared himself insolvent.

He has indicated that he intends to concentrate on writing now that he has regained his freedom, though he will probably keep a low profile for some time.

He did not, for example, attend a "private homage" in San Sebastián's old town that had been organised for him on Saturday afternoon by several dozen ETA sympathizers.

Instead, he sent a message to be read out at the event in which he criticised the "media circus" surrounding his release, and said he plans to spend time with his family.

He described himself as a "victim" of the "undemocratic state of emergency imposed by France and Spain."

text by El Pais / Expatica 2008
photos by Poldavo (Alex) and Daquella manera

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