New phase in the criminalisation of the Barcelona squatting movement.

Spanish squatter arrested on charges of alleged support of ETA

On Wednesday 16 January 2002, in broad daylight, in an Albert Heijn supermarket in the centre of Amsterdam, the 35 year old Spanish squatter Juan Ramón Rodríquez Fernández (Juanra) was arrested by a snatch squad.

With a bag over his head, he was carried off and detained in the Amsterdam headquarters of police, to be, shortly thereafter, transported to a EBI (extra secured institution) in Vught. He was held there under extra security and was forced to wear paper clothing. According to his lawyer, Juanra is doing reasonably well, taking into account his circumstances. Since Monday 28 January Juanra has been placed under 'normal' security, for now. Juanra has been wanted by the Spanish authorities for alleged support of the 'Barcelona-commando' (also known as Commando Gorbea) of the Basque separatist movement ETA. The arrest of Juanra is not one of a kind. For the past year the Spanish authorities have been running a criminalisation campaign against the squatting movement in (mainly) Barcelona. Several people from the Barcelona squatting scene have been arrested on charges of support of the ETA. Juanra is very much involved in the Barcelona squatters stronghold 'Kasa de la Muntanya' [The mountain-house] - a former Guardia Civil barracks on the west side of the Barcelona city-centre, that was squatted in 1989. Furthermore, he is the singer in the polically engaged hardcore band 'Kop'. He also regularly writes book reviews for some semi-alternative and literary magazines (He studied literary science).


In the past few years, the political climate of Spain has become increasingly unhealthy. The fight against the ETA has resulted, thanks to the Spanish government, in a sort of mass-hysteria. The most recent phase of this campaign seems to be the criminalisation of the Barcelona squatting movement. For the past few years, Barcelona has known a growing and very active squatting movement. That this has been an eyesore for the Spanish authorities, is hardly surprising. On 17 January 2001 the stronghold 'Kasa de la Muntanya' seemed to be done for. During the eviction of a squat (Kan Nyoki) situated nearby, during which the squatters showed resistance, the police decided to raid the squatted police barracks. The police stated that several objects were thrown at the cops responsible for the raid. In a - obviously prepared (as the police were carrying maps of the premises) - lightning raid, but without the legally required warrants, 'Kasa de la Muntanya' was raided.

All residents were evicted by force, the entire building was searched during eight hours, all rooms were documented on video and personal belongings of the residents, among which, diary's, computers, video's, camera's, minutes, financial records and money, were confiscated or destroyed. Outside in the streets, a boy was shot on with rubber bullets, which resulted in the fact that the boy now has only one eye. At dusk, the police left the premises and the barracks was squatted once again.

On 24 August 2001 a few alleged members of the 'Barcelona-commando' of the ETA were arrested in Barcelona. Articles about Juanra being wanted by the police appeared in the Spanish press, shortly thereafter. One of the arrested alleged ETA members, Fernando García Jodrá, seemed to have stated that 'a boy of 35, tall, slim, intelligent and with fair hair, residing somewhere between Barcelona and Gerona' had passed information about the extreme rightwing organisation CEDADE to the ETA-commando. The Spanish police linked this description to the identity of Juanra. When somebody within the squatting movement is being accused of a crime, based on such unsubstantial evidence, it is clear that the police want to do nothing else than put this movement in a bad light. And of course it is very easy to label a strong and active social movement as 'terrorist'. The government-approved, well co-ordinated mass-hysteria against the ETA - and since 11 September against terrorism in general - does the rest. The credulous citizens will drop all sympathy for the squatting movement, for as far as they had any, after such allegations. In the meantime it has become clear that García Jodrá withdrew his incriminating claims against Juanra when he was brought in, before the examining magistrate, because the claims were forced out of him. García Jodrá's lawyer says to have medical certificates and photographs that prove that his client was tortured during the first few days of his detention.

That this is not just an isolated case is proved by the fact that on Sunday 9 September Sonia García Onavida and Alberto Lambert Durán were arrested by an anti-terrorism unit on charges of supporting the ETA. In concrete terms, they are suspected to have helped Juanra during his attempt to escape. Both people had been apprehended before, during the turmoil caused by the illegal eviction of 'Kasa de la Muntanya' in July 2001. Apparently, their names appeared on confiscated documents of José Tamboleo Fonseca, a squatter who was arrested a few days earlier. Tamboleo is charged with having helped alleged ETA member García Jodrá escape when some alleged ETA colleagues of García Jodrá were arrested in January 2001. From Tamboleo, two computers and a large amount of paper were confiscated.
Sonia and Alberto were released on bail, five days later. Early October, in a press statement, 'Kasa de la Muntanya' distanced themselves from among other thing, ETA: "Our movement has no connection whatsoever with ideologies or organisations that are organised hierarchically or in party-structures, or any armed or political front, nor has it had any connection with those in the past." and condemned the political ideas, organisation and strategy of the group, as well as the way in which the Spanish state uses the Basque conflict politically. The atmosphere in Barcelona is ruined in such a way, that many people in the scene no longer want to do any solidarity work with prisoners, because they are afraid they will be the next to be picked up by Spanish justice.
It's damn bitter for the ones in jail on charges based on allegations, based on absolutely nothing. Spanish justice will make up the 'terrorist links' anyway.

It seems that this tactic is part of the preparations for the next Euro-summit coming March in Barcelona. After the complete failure of last year - because of the announced protests, the World Bank cancelled their annual conference, which was to take part in Barcelona - Catalan and Spanish authorities do not want to run any risk. Besides the criminalisation of squatting-, anti-globalisation-, anti-militaristic-, and anti-fascist movements, a great many squats have been evicted. Barcelona has to be 'cleansed' for the coming Euro-summit and potential opposition to the summit must be marginalised and/or criminalised. obviously, this has already started.


According to an article in the NRC Handelsblad of Saturday 20 January, the Spanish police tracked down Juanra, by following some Barcelonans who were going to Amsterdam early January. Immediately after he was localised, the request came to apprehend him, which happened very shortly thereafter, thanks to the new procedures of the European co-operation in Eurojust, which became active on January 1 2002. According to Jelle van Buren, of the organisation Eurowatch: "The real Eurojust has not started yet. However, a precursor, a sort of pre-Eurojust is active." Eurojust is a judicial cooperative of the public Prosecutors of the EU member states.

Eurojust has no authority of its own. The core is co-ordination: the public Prosecutors confer about cases in the member states, obviously with the emphasis on international cases, to see if a more co-ordinated action is possible or necessary. To make such things easier, Eurojust was created. There are some heavyweights in Eurojust, who are well informed about cases in their own countries, and who are able to greatly influence these cases. So, when - in this case - the Spanish Eurojuster has convinced the Dutch Eurojuster, that this is a very important case, that may not be delayed, the Dutch Eurojuster in the Netherlands has started to pull some strings in order to get more people, time, and material to accomplish a good and swift co-operation between the Dutch and the Spanish police and justice on this case.

In order to fire up the terrorismhysteria in the Netherlands, the Spanish authorities now claim that Juanra would be in Amsterdam to set up infrastructure for shelter for ETA members. These shelters for ETA members were to be found in the Amsterdam squatting movement, according to the Spanish public Prosecutor. The squatters in the Barcelona scene, who are in prison now, are being referred to as 'leaders of the squatting movement' in the press. 'Documentation on future targets' is being constructed from confiscated documents (mostly books, magazines etc.) and from computer data. The creative minds in the Spanish police seem to be able to make a complete network turn up out of the blue.

Not only in Barcelona

Not only the Barcelona scene is the victim of such repression. Last year, Eduardo García, an activist from Madrid, who was very active within the Anarchist Black Cross, who support political prisoners, in Madrid was arrested. García was accused of mailing letterbombs to Spanish journalists.

In the middle of last year, García was released on bail. The García case is not closed, however. Also, after the partial unveiling of the so-called first 'Barcelona-commando' of the ETA, several people in the activist scene in the city of Terrassa (near Barcelona) were arrested on similar charges, last spring. The common tactic seems to be, arrest firts, find evidence later.

In case no evidence is found, the police still get the chance to map part of the social movement. The fact that this method is nothing new, and especially this last year has been used intensively, is proved by the dossier "Que nos dejen en paz" about police oppression.(*)

Raid on Vrankrijk

Dutch justice is only too happy to play along. They've been looking for some motive to raid Vrankrijk, which was bought by the residents in 1991, and used to be a squat, for years. In 1997 they almost did it, on grounds of article 140 (membership of a criminal organisation). But now they had the ultimate pretext to raid the place.

Juanra was staying in Vrankrijk, when he was arrested in Amsterdam. And that's why, early in the morning of 17 Januray at 3.30h, the premises were raided to look for belongings of Juanra. The entire premises were searched (both the sides of the Spuistraat and the Singel - even though they only had a warrant for the side of the Spuistraat). All they found was one Spanish novel and two mobile phones, which were confiscated.

The police knew in which room Juanra had stayed, but nevertheless they had a thorough look in all of the other rooms as well. Of course they couldn't let an opportunity to snoop around in the famous 'squatters stronghold' pass, with the marriage of crown prince W-A and his Maxima coming up. As a reaction to the raid and the arrest of Juanra, mayor Cohen's windows were smashed and the Spanish consulate in Amsterdam was soiled. On Sunday 27 January the first noise-demonstration was held (with about 70 participants) near the prison in Vught where, Juanra is being held captive. On Saturday 26 January, sympathisers of Juanra have demonstrated in front of the Dutch consulate in Barcelona. And on 30 January, there was a protest in front of the Dutch consulate in Berlin.

According to his lawyer Victor Koppe, Juanra, though not officially held in the EBI (extra security detention), is in fact held captive under similar circumstances. He is in solitary confinement, has no contact with other inmates, is always handcuffed when leaving his cell, and escorted by three guards. He may only receive visitors from behind a glass plate (even his lawyer !). The only difference between Juanra's situation and the 'normal' EBI-regime is that Juanra can have visitors twice a week. One of these days the decision will be made whether to put him in the EBI or not. If so, he will be allowed to be visited by his family only once a week. Friends, acquaintances, or strangers will not be allowed to visit him, until their backgrounds have been checked.(which could take weeks).

The Dutch co-operation to the extradition request from the Spanish authorities, based on an insane construction, is not completely new. In the spring of 1990 a man from Amsterdam who had been active in the squatting movement for years, and who had made several films about social movements in the Basque Country, was picked up from his houseboat. He was charged with being one of the members of an ETA attack on the Spanish tourist bureau on the corner of Overtoom and Stadhouderskade. After some time in detention and after several interrogations, the police had to let him go, due to the fact that they lacked evidence and had manipulated witnesses. And, of course, the press roused the public sentiment by linking the squatting movement with the ETA.

As much as this is ridiculous under Dutch circumstances, the same can be said for the Spanish situation. The Spanish squatters movement, which generally has an anarchist orientation, has as good as no sympathy for the bloody ways of the ETA or for the political guidelines of this organisation. This does not mean, however, that they have no sympathy for the struggle for an autonomous part of the Basque population, but not in the form of a nation-state. Also, most of the squatters find the detention-system used against mostly Basque political prisoners, inhuman.

But it is not very subtle to translate sympathy for the struggle for autonomy, and resistance against the inhuman prisonsystem, to support of the ETA. The paranoid Spanish authorities have proved to be anything but subtle when it comes to things like this.

(*) Two Barcelonan files on the developments in police-repression against the activist movements are available in Spanish at the Amsterdam bookshop Fort van Sjakoo. They can be found here and here