Friday, December 27, 2002

Well, there's some news today to comment on. As it stood until now, the maximum possible amount of time a convicted felon could stay in prison was either twnety years or thirty years, depending on the crime. And, since the Spanish judicial system is extremely lenient, you can get all sorts of things like time off for good behavior and so on. Well, up until now people have been sentenced to ridiculously high numbers of years, 500 or 800 or just whatever. I seem to recall that the record was once held by a con-man, who got something like three thousand years. The deal with the sentencing is that by law, for every count you are convicted of, you get the sentence set by law for that crime (the judge may consider aggravating or mitigating circumstances). So if you kill five people, you get the stipulated time (let's say fifty years) for murder, multiplied by the number of counts you're convicted on--in this case you'd get 250 years.

Now get this. Those sentences seem ferocious, but nobody ever does more than thirty years in prison, ever. Until now, people with 250-year sentences have had their time off for good behavior counted from the 30-year maximum, so if they behave, they get out in say, twenty years. From now on, though, if you're a terrorist or if you've committed an especially horrible crime, you'll have your time off counted from your actual sentence and not from the thirty-year maximum. So you would have your time off calculated from a base of 250 years and not thirty years. I have no problem with this. At least these guys will do their full thirty years from now on; of course, the measure isn't retroactive. Also, if you stole public money, you can't get furloughs from prison or day-release (what they call here the tercer grado penitenciario) until you give it back.

Here are three examples of people who got off easy: a) Ex-police officer José Amedo, a member of the GAL government hit squad (?????!!!!? OK, I'll explain in a minute), got 117 years. He spent six years actually in the slam, and then had six years of tercer grado. Now he's out on parole. b) "Josu Ternera", the Number One, the big cheese, the capo di tutti capi of the whole goddamn ETA for its ten bloodiest years, 1979-89, got arrested in '89. He was in jail in France until 1996 and was then in jail in Spain until 2000, when the Supreme Court turned him loose on the grounds that trying him again would be double jeopardy since he'd already been tried for those crimes in France. He was then turned loose, and he got himself elected to the Basque Parliament on the EH (pro-ETA) party ticket. Meanwhile somebody, probably Judge Garzón (who must find himself quite handsome since he likes being photographed so much), filed new charges against him; "Ternera" disappeared and is now in hiding. c) ETA terrorist Félix Ramón Gil was sentenced to 298 years for various illegal stuff he did. They let him out of the Big House in October 2002 after serving thirteen years of his sentence. He committed suicide after a few weeks of his release.

Since you've already read about the Vanguardia's big scoop about how evil the Americans are in their treatment of captured terrorists, we remind you of 1980s Spanish government policy--when the Socialists were in power-- toward the ETA. What they did was set up a death squad called the GAL, made up of local cops and mercenary hired gunmen, that claimed to be something along the lines of a vigilante movement of outraged citizens. The GAL killed and / or kidnapped a few people, sometimes the wrong ones; Segundo Morey, a French businessman innocent of criminal involvement, was kidnapped by the GAL, who were at least decent enough to turn him loose when they found they had the wrong guy. Two real ETA terrorists, Lasa and Zabala, were tortured and murdered by the GAL. Eventually it was discovered that Interior (i.e. law-enforcement) Minister José Barrionuevo and his number two, Rafael Vera, were in on it, as well as the Basque Socialist party honcho, García Damborenea, and several smaller fry. They all swore on their mother's graves that Prime Minister Felipe González had no knowledge. Yeah, right, just like Reagan didn't know anything about the Iran-contra affair.

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