The trial starts today in Guipúzcoa Provincial Court of 15 Guardia Civil (police officers) who are accused of alleged torture and cause injury during the arrest and subsequent custody of ETA terrorists Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola, sentenced to 1,040 years in prison for perpetrating the attack on Madrid Barajas airport, which killed two people. The prosecutor, who sees no evidence of criminal activity on behalf of five of the defendants, seeks sentences of between two and three years in prison for four of the officers and the remaining six are accused perpetrators of injuries. The judge who is dealing with the case considers that the facts could constitute an alleged crime of torture.
The trial has raised passions after photos of Portu in hospital with evidence of bruises on various parts of his body were released . Left wing nationalists who do not condemn the crimes of ETA have used this case to stir up passions in the Basque Country. The Home Office attributes the injuries to the struggles that occurred during the arrest of two terrorists. The defense of all officers involved agree, and say that injuries were sustained whilst the terrorists resisted arrest and attempted to escape.
However, the shadow of the possible ill-treatment of ETA activists lost credibility from the moment when, all of them, blindly following an instruction from the terrorist organization, routinely started to report to have been tortured while in police custody. In fact, the investigating judge in this case notes the finding of a computer file located in the computerof Garikoitz Aspiazu (alias Txeroki), the contents of which reveal the existence of a manual (entitled "Facing arrest"), issued by the management of ETA to its members, in which "they are given direct orders to claim to have been tortured but refuse to testify before a judge".
Portu and Sarasola were arrested on January 6, 2008 at Mondragon by an team from the Guardia Civil. After identifying and reviewing their belongings, they found two Smith & Wesson revolvers and 50 cartridges, so they were arrested and shackled.
The Prosecution says that both were placed in official vehicles before being beaten by the officers guarding them. Whilst being handcuffed behind their backs, they were taken separately at an undetermined site, where they were punched and kicked, in addition to receiving death threats. A handcuffed Sarasola was thrown down a hillside before having a gun placed to his head and being told that he would be thrown into the river Bidasoa "just like Zabalza".
Zabalza, was a notorius ETA terrorist who died in the early 1980's. Secret police CESID agent, Pedro Gomez Nieto, revealed to his superior Juan Alberto Perote in 1985 that Mikel Zabalza died while he was being tortured in Intxaurrondo barracks. Zabalza, who had been arrested by the Civil Guard on November 20 1985, was found dead a few days later in the river Bidasoa with signs on his body of having been tortured.
The prosecutor says that it is possible that the Civil Guards were "shocked" by the assassination by ETA of two fellow officers two weeks earlier in the French town of Capbreton.
The detainees were taken to Intxaurrondo barracks in San Sebastian, and then, always separately, were taken to attend searches of their addresses, both in the town of Lesaka (Navarre). The Public Prosecutor's Office says in its indictment that Portu was then taken, after a severe beating, to the forensic medical examination and then admitted to the Intesive Care Unit of Donostia Hospital, where he remained for three days "due to the severity of his injuries" . Medical reports reveal that Portu suffered a chest injury with three broken ribs, a left pneumothorax with partial collapse of lung and pleural effusion. The prosecutor indicated that these injuries put his life "at risk".
For his part, Sarasola was also beaten and suffered numerous bruises and abrasions, as detailed by the prosecution, before being moved from Intxaurrondo to Madrid in an official vehicle under guard by three officers, "who punched and smacked him all the way." The prosecutor claimed that abuse occurred, in both cases, during transfer of the detainees, and said this showed these attacks were just for the pleasure of the officers rather than used to extract a confession about the bombing of the T-4 terminal. The Barajas bombing ended the ETA truce which started in December 2006.
A private prosecution from Portu and Sarasola complains that the fifteen Guardia Civil committed a crime of torture in aggravated form, amongst other crimes and misdemeanors, for which they seek prison terms ranging from 6 to 17 years in prison.