How a honeymoon turned to horror at Madrid airport for this Spanish couple

Newlyweds’ romantic trip was brought to a crashing end after husband was arrested by customs officers on arrival in Spain

Police officers at Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport.
Police officers at Madrid’s Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport.Luis Sevillano

Juan and Cristina’s honeymoon ended at the Moratalaz police station in Madrid, with Juan, the mayor of a small town in Castilla-La Mancha, behind bars, and Cristina, a recent law graduate, demanding that the police let him go.

It was a Sunday morning and they had just returned from their honeymoon in the United States. It had been a wonderful trip and the couple had no idea of the ordeal that was awaiting them when they passed through customs at Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport in Madrid.

Juan was ordered to “strip off” and then locked in a cell for more than 24 hours

“You are under arrest. There is a search and arrest warrant against you,” the customs officers told Juan. The couple couldn’t believe it. “At no time did my husband know why he was being arrested. I found out later, thanks to a friend in the police force, that it stemmed from a court order in Ayamonte (Huelva).”

It turned out that a long time ago Juan had been indirectly involved in a workplace accident. The judge had issued an arrest warrant for him, but after investigating further dropped the case – except that he forgot to cancel the warrant.

“We had had an amazing honeymoon in New York and along the East Coast of the United States. Then, at Barajas airport, I suddenly saw them taking away my husband,” said Cristina.

Juan did not want to talk about the experience to EL PAÍS, or even to have his real name published (Juan is an assumed name).“Seeing himself locked up in a cell for no reason was very hard. He has deleted it from his mind, he doesn’t want to know anything about the subject,” says Cristina.

They have officially recognized that they made a terrible mistake with us Newlywed Cristina

“I explained to the police that we had just returned from our honeymoon and that my husband had not done anything wrong. Later on I asked them to let me spend some time with him, and to tell the truth, they were good about it and let me see him. We both began to cry … But I said to him, ‘Look at me, we have had very happy times and we have to remember that – not this. Everything will be sorted out’.”

Juan felt humiliated. Before being taken to the police station in Moratalaz, he was ordered to “strip off” and squat. According to his complaint, he was then thrown in the back of a van without seats with seven other prisoners and taken in “subhuman conditions” to a cell at the station, where he was forced to spend the night.

The next day he was brought before a court in Plaza de Castilla. The court agreed that Juan had done nothing wrong. The judge from Ayamonte, who had transferred to another court without cancelling the search warrant, was suspended for a month without pay.

Juan was in jail for more than 24 hours, from Sunday morning on July 24, 2014 until Monday. “At the duty court in Madrid they apologized to us … they even said that we could claim damages from the State.”

Less than €130 in compensation

Outraged by the experience, the couple decided to seek €6,000 in compensation from the Justice Ministry. After a long process, the Spanish Council of State ordered a payment of €126 in damages. “We haven’t even gone by to pick up the money. It doesn’t matter. At least they have officially recognized that they made a terrible mistake with us,” says Cristina.

But the law graduate is still angry with the judge from Ayamonte. “Why did he put out a search and arrest warrant when Juan had nothing to do with the accident and when my husband’s home address, ID number and political post in the municipality can be clearly seen in the court proceedings?” asks Cristina, who still carries painful memories of how her honeymoon ended in a police station.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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