Friday, June 18

The last survivor of the Atocha massacre: “García Juliá’s freedom is irregular and scandalous” | Spain

Alejandro Ruiz-Huerta, the last survivor of the Atocha massacre, during an interview with EL PAÍS, in 2017.
Alejandro Ruiz-Huerta, the last survivor of the Atocha massacre, during an interview with EL PAÍS, in 2017.LUIS SEVILLANO

When Alejandro Ruiz-Huerta was shot and fell to the ground with his companions on the night of January 24, 1977, he began to count in terror: “One, two, three, four. Have they already left? Five six. What happened? … Seven. I hear the door close. Eight, nine, ten … I have to move Enrique’s body that is on top of me. It does not move. Fourteen, fifteen … I open my eyes in the office ”, he says in his memoirs. Now, jumping the distances, he lives another count (down) that weighs on him: next Thursday, if there is not a last-minute script twist, Carlos García Juliá, one of the gunmen of the Atocha massacre, will be released from prison. the crime against a group of labor lawyers that put the Transition in check.

The far-rightist will be released after spending more than two decades on the run from justice and after spending less than a year in a Spanish prison after his capture in Brazil. His departure was early after applying prison benefits.

“Has justice been served?”

“Has justice been served?” It’s a very complicated subject, ”Ruiz-Huerta replied last Tuesday, after a silence of a few seconds. With Fernando Lerdo de Tejada, [otro de los autores], justice was never done. Because a judge released him when he had not yet been tried [y huyó]. In the case of García Juliá, it depends on the decisions of the courts in the coming days.

Ruiz-Huerta still hopes that the Constitutional Court, to which they have resorted as a last resort to try to stop the release after an unsuccessful legal battle of more than five months in the ordinary justice system, will protect them. They insist that the decision to advance the killer’s departure is against the law. “But, so far, the impression I have is that, deep down, all the courts have wanted to get out of the way. It is a feeling of absolute helplessness, that no one gets into what you tell them, but what they already have in mind. I have had a feeling of deaf ears ”, summarizes Cristina Almeida, one of the attorneys for the prosecution in the trial held in the 1980s. She was already retired, but she returned to register as a lawyer in full confinement to get into this fight.

Interview with Cristina Almeida, lawyer for the victims of the massacre.THE COUNTRY

It all started on May 8. That day, the wounds reopened. The victims learned from the press that the Ciudad Real Provincial Court had set a new date for García Juliá’s release: November 19, just one day before the anniversary of the death of Francisco Franco and José Antonio Primo. de Rivera, a very symbolic day for the extreme right. The surprise was great, Almeida emphasizes. Only three months earlier, when Brazil extradited the gunman to Spain after capturing him at the end of 2018 after he had been missing since the 1990s, the National Court had calculated how long he had left behind bars: 3,854 days (more than 10 years), according to the calculation of February 21, 2020, incorporated into the case and to which EL PAÍS had access. In practice, he had been locked up since his arrest in March 1977 until 1991, when he was granted the parole that he would use to flee.

The National Court had been the body that had tried him for the massacre of the labor lawyers, the one that had ordered his capture and extradition. But the case then jumped, at the request of the defense, to the Court of Ciudad Real. There was his last sentence: during his stay in preventive prison in 1979, when he was waiting precisely for the trial for the Atocha massacre, he kidnapped the director of the prison, his family and another official to try to escape. That detail, which has been key, was unknown to the victims.

“For many years, they did not inform us of anything. We did not find out about the incident that he had in the Ciudad Real jail for which he was sentenced to three years for breaking his sentence, ”Ruiz-Huerta emphasizes in conversation with this newspaper.

The benefits

That second sentence allowed García Juliá, sentenced to 193 years for the crime of Atocha, to transfer the issue of his release to the Ciudad Real Court. This then made a new calculation and reduced the pending time to 287 days. He applied prison benefits, for example, for work undertaken in prison before escaping. “It is contrary to the law, jurisprudence and the pronouncements of the Constitutional Court,” argues Almeida, who stresses that he cannot redeem his sentence for having attempted to escape.

“Liquidation [de condena] it is done in an irregular and scandalous way, to say the least, “says Ruiz-Huerta, retired professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Córdoba. “What happened in Ciudad Real felt so strange… One is amazed that justice can act like this. And the refusal of the prosecutor to appeal. And the National Court, which had requested the extradition, also ignores the issue “, he adds:” It caused me perplexity, astonishment and rejection in the face of a situation that is unpresentable from my point of view. “

At the request of the victims to back down, the Provincial Court itself spoke out. In one order, the court judges recognized the “contradiction and perplexity” that causes the murderer to “maintain the prison benefits obtained prior to his escape,” but they ruled that this was established by the regulations in force at that time.

“From a sociopolitical point of view, this resolution constitutes by itself an offense to the democratic memory of justice and reparation to the victims of political or terrorist violence,” says CC OO in a statement. “What we are asking for is justice”, adds Almeida. “We have always approached this matter with absolute respect for justice. And absolute lack of violence, lack of revenge and lack of rancor ”, also points out the last survivor of the massacre that claimed the lives of Enrique Valdelvira, Luis Javier Benavides, Francisco Javier Sauquillo, Serafín Holgado and Ángel Rodríguez Leal. The gunmen, followers of Fuerza Nueva, also seriously wounded Ruiz-Huerta (who saved his life thanks to a bullet hitting a pen he carried on his chest), Luis Ramos, Miguel Sarabia and María Dolores González. These last three, already deceased.

“During this time, has García Juliá addressed you to ask for your forgiveness?”

-No. There has been no forgiveness on his part. In addition, on January 24 of the first years they celebrated the anniversary of the attack by eating seafood in prison. With that being said everything.

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