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IMMIGRATION

Civil Guard gives tapes of Ceuta tragedy to court

Officials have changed story several times over use of rubber bullets

The Civil Guard on Thursday handed over to a court the full digital recordings of an incident that took place at the Ceuta border with Morocco, in which 15 sub-Saharan migrants drowned while attempting to make it onto Spanish territory, official sources have told EL PAÍS.

The court will use the more than 20 hours of audiovisual material to investigate the actions of the Civil Guard, which is thought to have fired rubber bullets at the would-be immigrants as they tried to swim from one side of the border fence to the other.

EL PAÍS revealed on Thursday that high-ranking Civil Guard officers concealed the fact that rubber bullets were used against the migrants as they jumped into the water at Tarajal beach on February 6. In the reports drawn up between February 6 and 8, officials left out any mention about firing the weapons into the sea.

But in a congressional appearance on February 13, Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz admitted that officers had used rubber bullets when migrants were already in the water, although he claimed that they were not directly fired upon.

In Madrid, the opposition Socialist Party is accusing Civil Guard chief Arsenio Fernández de Mesa of lying about the incident.

Three Civil Guard reports, to which EL PAÍS has had access, and that are dated February 6 through 8, assert that the rubber bullets were only used around the border fence area of the Spanish exclave.

In several radio interviews after the incident, De Mesa reiterated that Civil Guards had not fired into the water. But after visiting Ceuta on February 12, the Civil Guard chief admitted that they had indeed aimed their weapons into the sea, but that they were not firing directly at the immigrants.

A video obtained by TV channel Cuatro, however, contradicts this claim, showing the bullets hitting the water close to the would-be immigrants. The witness who recorded the video claims that the officers were shouting, "Come on you bastards!" at the group of migrants in the water.

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