Court drops ETA-tipoff case indictments over lack of evidence

Judges cannot conclude if crime was committed in Faisán inquiry; Rubalcaba spokeswoman demands "slanderous" accusations be retracted

In a surprise decision, a High Court panel decided on Wednesday to dismiss the indictments against two former top police officials and an agent charged in an ETA-tipoff investigation, known as the Faisán case, owing to a lack of evidence.

In a unanimous ruling, the court's criminal division said that while it believes there exists circumstantial evidence that a crime was committed, it wasn't enough to sustain the indictments that were handed down this summer against former Police chief Víctor García Hidalgo, former Basque Police chief Enrique Pamiés, and officer José María Ballesteros.

High Court Judge Pablo Ruz indicted the three in July for alleged cooperation with the Basque terrorist group. The court's criminal panel said the probe "needs further investigation" because the judges cannot determine whether there was any collaboration with ETA or if police secrets were revealed. The justices sent the case back to Ruz to decide whether he wants to continue investigating the case or drop it altogether.

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The opposition Popular Party (PP) has been using the Faisán case as political fodder for years, suggesting that Socialist candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, the former interior minister, was privy to the tipoff. According to the allegations, someone gave a heads-up to a group of ETA extortionists in 2006, including José María Elosua - the owner of the Faisán Bar and a go-between in ETA's extortion racket - about an imminent police raid. Rubalcaba was never called to testify.

His campaign manager Elena Valenciano said the Socialists are waiting for an apology for all the "slander and false accusations" thrown at Rubalcaba.

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