Convicted pedophile Daniel Galván Viña — who was captured by Spanish police on August 5 after he was given a royal pardon in Morocco, where he was serving a 30-year prison sentence — preferred to be called by his Spanish name. But many of those who knew him during the 20 or so years he had lived in Spain, continued to call him Benia, one of his original surnames.
After obtaining Spanish nationality, he changed his first name from Salahedin to Daniel, and Hispanicized his two second names from Gabhan Benia to Galván Viña, says one acquaintance who has asked for anonymity.
Among the few in Spain who knew him, most say they were surprised at the news he was a convicted child sex offender. “When I saw the news I immediately recognized him, although he had put on weight and lost his hair. My first reaction was surprise, I didn’t believe what I was hearing,” says Matías Balibrea, the head of the International Relations department at the University of Murcia, where Galván worked between 1996 and 2002 as an administrative assistant. “We valued his knowledge of Arabic, and so he would help to prepare conferences and would liaise with universities in North Africa on exchange programs and visits,” says Balibrea, who adds Galván was “hard working, responsible, and always turned up on time.” In 2002, Galván left his post, and was not heard of again until last week, when his case made headlines around the world.
The 63-year-old’s résumé is full of significant gaps and reads like the structure of a spy novel. He graduated from the University of Basrah, in Iraq, in the early 1970s, then deserted from the army during the war with Iran. He has worked as a translator of Arabic and a teacher, as well as more menial tasks, and has been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia. He retired to Morocco a decade ago, and was convicted of raping up to 15 children in 2011 and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Acquaintances in Spain say that Galván never expected to be pardoned, and had applied to be transferred to a Spanish prison. He had never petitioned for clemency.
Neighbors in the down-at-heel neighborhood of San Roque de Torrevieja, in Alicante, where he owned a small house, say he was polite, but that they saw him rarely.