Next Wednesday will mark the 25th anniversary of the bloodiest attack in the history of Basque terrorist group ETA. On Thursday, far away from Barcelona, where a Hipercor supermarket was blown up killing 21 people and leaving scores injured, a survivor sat down face to face with one of the attackers inside a nearly empty room at Zaballa penitentiary, in the Basque Country.
Roberto Manrique, the victim, and Rafael Caride Simón, the convict, were there as part of an ongoing program launched by the previous Socialist government to promote reconciliation in the northern region after ETA announced an end to its attacks last year. So far, there have been 11 such meetings, which have been criticized by some victims' associations.
According to Manrique, who spoke with the media afterwards, Caride Simón did not use the word "sorry" at any time during the two-hour meeting, but he did express regret in other words.
The ETA member was sentenced to 790 years for the bombing which took place at a time when the supermarket was packed with people. Manrique himself, who worked as a butcher there, was seriously injured in the attack.
"He did say a great many times - I don't know, maybe eight or 10 or 12 times - that he feels guilty and responsible for all the hurt," Manrique said.
Caride Simón also told him that there are other ETA convicts who feel the same way, but that they are "afraid" of reprisals. The convict also said that he hopes the Basque radical left admits to its share of the blame, said Manrique.