Spain's Top Court Clears Guards of Torture in ETA Case

Spain’s Supreme Court annulled Tuesday a 2010 ruling that jailed four civil guard police officers for allegedly torturing two members of the Basque separatist movement ETA, according to Spain’s El Pais newspaper.

The Supreme Court judges supported the claims of the guards that the allegations of torture were part of a “political-military strategy and procedure” by ETA. The injuries that the two ETA members - Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola – sustained could have been caused by a “violent arrest”, the defense argued.

Portu and Sarasola were convicted of the December 2006 bombing of Madrid's Barajas airport that left two Eduadoran men dead. The two ETA members were sentenced to 1,040 years in prison and the attack effectively brought an end to the ETA ceasefire of 2006.

The four guards, who were jailed in December of 2010 to sentences ranging from two to four-and-a-half years in prison, had been part of a group of 15 paramilitary police on trial. During the trial in the Basque region city of San Sebastián, records stated the officers beat the suspects, threatened to kill them and put a gun to Sarasola's head.

It was also alleged that Portu was dunked multiple times into a river and forced to drink the water.

The Supreme Court said that the testimony of two forensic investigators in San Sebastián had been based on their own version of events. It added that the testimony failed to mention the arrest and detention of the suspects, instead centering on the alleged mistreatment when the ETA members were transferred through a forest.

"Therefore [the testimony] was based on false assumptions, with all the signs of falsehood,” the Supreme Court said, according to EL Pais.

The Supreme Court added that it could not be proven that torture had taken place and therefore it must impose "the right of presumption of innocence." The court also awarded damages of 18,000 euros to Portu and 6,000 euros to Sarasola for the "physical and psychological damage caused” during the events.

ETA is a paramilitary, separatist group based in the Basque region near Spain’s northern border with France with alleged cells operating throughout Europe. The group was founded in 1959 and has been blamed for over 820 deaths in its 40 years in existence.

The group has also used car bombings, kidnappings and assassinations to advance its cause. It is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States.

The 2006 Madrid airport bombing was the fourth time the group has broken a ceasefire, but in September of 2010 ETA declared its fifth ceasefire that is still in place.

Following on top of the ceasefire, ETA declared a definitive end to all armed activity in October of this year, citing the results of Donostia-San Sebastián International Peace Conference as a reason and asking Spanish and French governments to open “a process of direct dialogue.”

“The agreed resolution brings together the ingredients for an integrated solution to the conflict and has the support of large sectors of Basque society and of the international community,” the statement said, according to the BBC. “We face a historic opportunity to obtain a just and democratic solution to the age-old political conflict.”

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