Spain’s ruling Popular Party (PP) has finally decided to take part in the demonstration organized by the Terrorism Victims Association (AVT) this Sunday to protest against the striking down of the so-called “Parot doctrine” on prison sentences by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ruling from Strasbourg led to the release from jail of ETA killer Inés del Río on Tuesday and has paved the way for dozens of other terrorist inmates to apply for immediate release.
However, no members of the Cabinet will attend the rally, party sources said, as the government cannot be seen to support a protest “that goes against the law.” As a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights, Spain is bound to apply the ruling on the Parot doctrine, which helped to keep prisoners in jail longer by applying sentence deductions to the total number of years in the conviction (3,800 in the case of Del Río), instead of the 30-year maximum in force at the time most ETA terrorists were jailed.
The Spanish government has informed Strasbourg that a total of 93 ETA prisoners are eligible for a sentence review, with 36 cases already pending in Spain’s courts. A further 37 convicted criminals, including murderers, rapists and pedophiles, have had their sentences prolonged under the Parot doctrine.
The basic rule of democracy is that the courts must be respected”
Three days after the ECHR ruling, Thursday saw Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy make his first public comment on the decision, which essentially ties the government’s hands in penitentiary policy for ETA inmates and other dangerous criminals: “I don’t like it all. It is unfair and wrong,” he told reporters in Brussels. “But the basic rule of the democratic system is that the rulings of courts must be respected and adhered to.”
Of the demonstration, the prime minister said: “The government has to be in its place, supporting the victims, but we are not going to be there [on Sunday] as a government, but as a party.”
The PP’s national leadership will be represented by Esteban González Pons, a veteran party official and congressional deputy. The decision follows days of indecision within the conservative party hierarchy, which was also awaiting the announcement of the protest’s slogan by the AVT, which is finally to read: “Justice for an end [to terrorism] with winners and losers.”
Also present will be the party number three, Javier Arenas, the group’s spokesman in the European parliament, Jaime Mayor Oreja, and euro deputy Carlos Iturgaiz.
Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz said Thursday morning that if he wasn’t a Cabinet minister, he “would be seriously thinking about going to the demonstration on Sunday, depending on its slogan.”
“The Popular Party, as always, has been, is, and will be by the side of the victims of terrorism. Next Sunday, October 27, we will accompany the victims to defend the memory and the dignity of the victims in the face of the European Court of Human Rights ruling,” the party said in a statement on the same day.
The leaders of the Madrid branch of the PP – the most powerful in the country – announced on Tuesday and Wednesday that they would attend the march and the centrist UPyD has also stated it will “take to the streets” in support of ETA victims.