Victory for ETA prisoners in Spain and Britain

In October, prisoners from the Basque nationalist group ETA won a significant victory when the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Spain could not retrospectively raise legal limits on prison sentences. The Parot doctrine was introduced by the Spanish government in 2005, specifically to restrict the entitlement of ETA prisoners to remission or other benefits.

On 21 October 2013, the ECtHR ordered the release of ETA pri­soner Ines del Rio. Del Rio was arrested in 1988 in Zaragoza and sentenced to 3,828 years in prison for her involvement in a number of ETA attacks, including the 1986 Plaza Republica Dominicana bombing in Madrid. She was due to be released in 2008, having been granted remission, but the government invoked the Parot doctrine to keep her in prison. The ECtHR found that the lengthening of her sentence was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Following the ruling, the High Court in London ordered the release of Antton Troitino, a former ETA member imprisoned in HMP Long Lartin in Britain where he faced extradition to Spain for involvement in ETA bombings. Spanish courts originally sentenced him to more than 2,700 years’ imprisonment, but he was released in 2011 after serving 24 years because at the time of sentencing the constitutional limit on time served was 30 years, and he had earned time off for good behaviour. Within days of his release, Spain invoked the Parot doctrine to nullify the time limit and ordered Troitino to be re-arrested. He fled the country but was eventually arrested in Britain under an international warrant in June 2013.

The ECtHR ruling marks a significant victory against the Parot doctrine, which has been used exclusively and vindictively against ETA prisoners. An estimated 60 prisoners have had their time in prison extended under the doctrine; about 30 have appeals pending in Strasbourg. In November Spanish courts ordered the release of a further nine ETA prisoners, and a further 43 are expected to be freed in the coming weeks.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014