European Court Ordered Spain to Release Basque ETA Terrorist
Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Spain to free a Basque separatist militant, Ines del Rio Prada, 55, saying her extended detention was illegal and instructed Madrid government to pay her €30,000 in compensation.
Under Spanish law no one can serve more than 30 years for murder, even if the total sentence for the crime is longer.
Inés del Rio was jailed in 1989 for her role in 23 assassinations and bombings as an ETA operative. The ETA (an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna – “Basque Homeland and Freedom”) is a Basque independence movement which turned into a terrorist organization in 1968, reportedly killing around 800 people since their campaign for a separate Basque state turned violent.
A series of arrests has weakened the ETA in recent years, and in 2011 it declared an open-ended ceasefire. Earlier this month, a demonstration in support of ETA members imprisoned for terrorism attracted thousands of protestors in the city of Bilbao.
Prada, who was jailed for 3,838 years in 1989, was due for release in 2008. But Madrid courts prolonged her sentence, as well as dozens of other members of ETA. The Strasbourg-based court ruled that the retrospective changes to her sentence violated her human rights. Prada took the Spanish government to the ECHR when it became apparent that time deducted for good behavior would be deducted from the total length of her sentence, rather than the 30 year maximum.
The Spanish courts changed the law in 2006 under the Parot Doctrine that was introduced by the Spanish Supreme Court which states that the reductions on a sentence for work carried out in prison, good behavior, etc. should be applied on the total years given to the prisoner in his or her original sentence, rather than the maximum legal time allowed in prison. The name “Parot Doctrine” was given to the law, after Henry Parot, another ETA member who was the first to be affected by the new ruling.
Spain authorities condemned the ruling, saying the decision could lead to the release of up to a quarter of ETA prisoners. Spain’s Minister for Justice, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, speaking in Madrid, said the legal consequences of the verdict would be applied case by case.
He added: “It cannot be that a person who has committed one murder suffers the same penal consequences as somebody who has committed 20. The government would not have to pay compensation to Prada as she still owed compensation to her victims.”
Angeles Pedraza, head of the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT), joined in Spanish condemnation of the ECHR. Also speaking in Madrid at a press conference, she said:
“First, we are going to say that we don’t comply. And of course there is no reason to open the jail doors because they will have to lodge an appeal one by one. This is not justice. Despite being defeated today, the AVT and the victims will fight till the end for justice in Spain. And justice means the terrorists are in jail so that victims can mourn.”
There are around 600 members of ETA in Spanish prisons, of whom around 60 have had their early release cancelled under the Parot Doctrine.
Video credit: EuroNews