The De Juana Case

The “De Juana” case

After the transition to democracy, Spain implemented a maximum jail term of 20 years. This was, as you can imagine, was an important point for the young democracy, used as it was to indefinite sentences for any offenses, real or perceived, against the fascist regime. When the politicians decided to extend this period, the argument they used was that certain crimes, such as terrorism, national or islamist, deserved longer sentences.

One of the first people to be resentenced under the new laws, and indeed, one of the peoples whose expiring jail term prompted the change in the law, was the convicted ETA terrorist Inaki De Juana. He was sentenced in 1987 to 3000 years in jail for organising bombings that killed 25 people during a wave of terror attacks in Madrid during the 1980s. As you can imagine, the fact that by law he would be automatically released after only 20 of those 3000 years drew a wave of contempt and fury from victims of terror across the country.

So, De Juana was one of the main examples used to change the law. Despite this, he recently received parole after only 21 years in jail, as the parole board decide he posed no real risk to Spanish society. Despite condemnation from politicians across the board, victims groups and the press, he was released on parole, albeit under strict bail conditions. Such conditions include not contacting the press, and not being involved in any political process, except voting, etc. Upon his release a furious Prime Minister Zapatero took the unprecedented step of replying to a reporter that his personal opinion was that scum like him should rot in jail, although he appreciated that the judicial process must be seen as fair and just.

So the recent revelation that a letter from him was read by “an unknown woman”, restating the case for armed struggle in the Basque country and heaping praise upon the recently arrested ETA members and summer bombing campaign, during a welcome celebration for him as he arrived back in San Sebastian, has, shall we say, stirred up the nation. The press is screaming blue murder, and Judge Pablo Ruz (of the National Court) has ordered an investigation to see if the National Police unit of San Sebastian can prove the author of the letter. If the Judge is convinced that Mr De Juana wrote the letter then he will be looking at a maximum jail sentence of 2 years (parole unlikely) for breaking the terms of his parole, plus any other additional time for the incitement of violence under strict anti terrorism laws.

While on the surface this seems like a simple case of slapping down a convicted killer in his deluded quest, in certain parts of Basque, and indeed Northern Spanish society, De Juana is revered as a freedom fighter and community leader. The mere fact that Judge Ruz has ordered this investigation has stirred a hornets nest in which nationalist Basques are crying foul, and anonymous sources are already promising violent retaliations against the kingdom of Spain.

The whole case is quickly turning into a cause celebre for ETA and it’s associated political parties. They are claiming that Madrid and the central government are using any excuse to clamp down on any independent political party that does not toe the PSOE or national line. In retaliation, the central government say that they are trying to bring murderers and terrorists to justice and keep the average Spaniard safe on the street. In light of the last few bombs this summer placed across Spain, I think the average citizen on the street is going to be in favour of heavy handed justice. But the nationalist Basques aren’t going to take that lying down. This could, very easily, become the hot button topic to take peoples minds off the dying economy, in which case we’re going to see more police versus more bombs.

It’s certainly thrown Andalucia – traditionally the populace have been against increasing the maximum jail term. But for the first time the main ETA thrust seems to be against Andalucia and the whole tourism sector. So public sentiment is swinging towards throwing the “hijo de putas” in jail, or indeed putting them up against the wall. Of course, the average Andalucian doesn’t trust the justice system, but is now in the unusual position of having to ask the authorities to save them from the big bad enemy. While the PSOE-A party (the one that has run Andalucia since democracy) will always vote with the main PSOE (the one that runs Spain, and is supposed to be lefist [bloody communists!]). Leaving the average Andalucian realising that they are sympathizing with the P.P. – also known as the hereditary enemy? But this is money!

De Juana stories in Spainish
De Juana stories in English

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