Sept 17 2002

A report of the courtcase of Juanra

To begin, the presiding judge presented the accusations against Juanra from the officer of justice (corresponding to the role of a prosecutor in Anglo-American law) in Spain, Molina, and asked Juanra to make a statement. He said that he was innocent of the charges. He stated that he had no clue who wrote the name and address of the leader of CEDADE, an extreme right-wing Spanish organisation, on the piece of paper found in the apartment of an ETA operative, Jodra. Juanra further said that he could only offer wild guesses at how it was that his supposed fingerprints ended up on the piece of paper.

After a lunch break, the defence presented a plea in two parts: first framing this case as taking place on the eve of the introduction of the European arrest warrant, under which an extradition trial will not even be required when another EU member state requests an extradition. The plea rested largely on the inconsistency of Molina's accusations: first saying that Juanra had not only assisted the ETA command in Barcelona, but that he had actively collaborated with the ETA as a courier between the Gorbea command of the ETA in Barcelona and the leadership abroad; then later saying that Juanra "could not have possibly worked as a courier given the evidence". Molina and Garzon, the prosecuting judge, had not responded to further inquiries from the Dutch judges as to these contradictory statements. The defence then outlined how Jodra had later retracted his statement about Juanra and further stated that his first statement had been obtained by means of torture, which would render the first statement inadmissible in a Dutch court. Furthermore, the Spanish authorities had only presented the evidence about Juanra's fingerprints being found on the piece of paper some time after they had requested Juanra's extradition. Spain, during the period that it held the presidency of the European Commission, had only just tried and failed to put anti-globalisation protesters on the EU's list of terrorist organisations; it seems clear, the defence argued, that Spain was looking for any excuse to associate Juanra, an outspoken critic of globalisation, with an established terrorist organisation such as the ETA. This despite the fact that the ETA has only ever been shown to attack mainstream politicians, not right-wing extremists as the leader of CEDADE.

The second part of the defence plea focused on Spain's record of human rights violations of suspects in the form of torture, as profiled by Amnesty International and a UN committee on human rights. Spain, the defence went on, completely lacks any unbiased institutionalised means of investigating police officers accused of torture, such as an ombudsman. If a torture victim were to try to report a member of the police for torture using legal means, there is no chance of the accusation going anywhere. Juanra has no chance of a fair trial as required by the European Convention on Human Rights, and any Dutch judges sending him back to a place where his human rights would be violated would be complicit with those violations, the defence concluded. The principle in European law of "blind faith" in the legal systems of other EU member states should not be applicable in the case of Spain.
The officer of justice admitted in her argument that the evidence from Molina and Garzon had indeed been spotty and inconsistent, but she insisted that Molina's initial accusations should not be seen to contradict his later statement implying Juanra's innocence.And perhaps Garzon was simply "too busy" to respond to further questions about the evidence. Further, she said, Amnesty International's and the UN's assessments of Spain's poor human rights record were not legally authoritative enough for the panel of Dutch judges to base their decision on. "Terrorism is far from our beds in the Netherlands," she began, arguing that the Dutch judges had to understand that years of ETA terrorism warranted investigating every shred of evidence, and implying that harsh measures were needed to combat the ETA. According to her communication with Molina, she said, Molina had promised that Juanra would not be held "incommunicado", and he would be free to receive visitors and communicate with the outside world during his detention for investigation.

The officer of justice concluded by telling the judges that they were not in a position to make a recommendation to the Ministry of Justice that Juanra should not be extradited. Furthermore, although he had been free on bail pending the extradition trial, she argued that the fact that the decision about extradition was imminent meant that there was a serious risk that Juanra would try to flee the country. As such, the judges should not find to extend his freedom on bail: he should be put in detention again for the two weeks leading up to the decision. "It is not as if the gentleman is staying in a single family home where he can be easily checked on," she said, "he's staying in <i>Vrankrijk</i>."

The defence rebutted by stating that there was in fact a precedent for the panel of judges to make a negative recommendation on extradition to the ministry of justice in a case where there was evidence of torture in the country requesting extradition, Turkey. The defence then repeated a statement from the judge who had set bail for Juanra: that the role of the officer of justice in an extradition case is to act as an "open window" letting the statements of the Spanish officer of justice through. By presenting what she thought that the Spanish authorities <i>meant to say</i> with their garbled and self-contradictory evidence, rather than simply letting their statements stand verbatim, the Dutch officer of justice was acting as a "wagon pulled by the Spanish state" and a "devil's advocate". The law concerning detention before a possible extradition, the defence reminded the judges, had recently been amended. If one judge decides to grant freedom on bail to the defendant in an extradition case, the decision does not have to be formally renewed by any subsequent judges.

The officer of justice formally objected to the defence's description of her, calling it "unprofessional". She also acknowledged that the law had been amended. She then tried to argue that the case involving Turkey had different circumstances. At the time of that case, some Turkish police officers accused of torture had been investigated by a government committee and subsequently charged. This constituted clear evidence of Turkey's record of torture in that case, she said. The surreal implication of her argument: if Spain in fact had some sort of impartial committee to investigate and charge officers accused of torture, and if some officers had been formally charged in Spain, then this would be a reason to assume a reasonable chance of Juanra being tortured in Spain and not extradite him.

Juanra made the closing statement. He said that there was no chance of his fleeing, because it would mean that he would have to live underground for the rest of his life and he would never be able to see his nine-year-old son in Barcelona again. He further stated that he knew it to be the case that Spanish police, during the periods of questioning and torture that suspects held "incommunicado" are subjected to, would wave photographs in front of the person being questioned and ask them if they recognized any of the people in the photographs. Juanra presented a scenario that when the Spanish police were interrogating Jodra about the identity of "Marc", the person Jodra said gave him the piece of paper, they probably held a picture of Juanra in front of Jodra. Because Juanra and his band are relatively well known in Spain, Jodra would have easily recognised the picture and said, as he did, "yes, the singer for the band Kop", without even knowing what Juanra's name was.

The judges recessed and came back to present their findings for the day. They said that they had in fact already discussed the issue of further detention for Juanra before this day's hearing, and although the officer of justice considered Juanra to be a flight risk, the judges found that Juanra could continue to be free until October 1 on the bail that was already posted.