Tuesday, July 15, 2008

De Juana Chaos, Chapter Two

If anyone though that we had heard the end of the Iñaki de Juana Chaos saga then I’m afraid I have bad news. ETA prisoner De Juana Chaos leaves prison on the 2nd August, assuming that no-one invents a fresh legal pretext to keep him inside. He will have served his (second) sentence and legally be a free man. It was never very likely that the PP and associated rightwing fringe groups (of which there are now so many I don’t even have space to name them) would let the event pass without trying to seek some political advantage from it. So cue, yet again, El Mundo – always ready to lead the charge. Our favourite newspaper has visited the street in San Sebastian where De Juana Chaos will be living on his release and found that some victims of terrorism are also resident in the same street. The new party UPD, with its single member of parliament and determination to get some attention, has also jumped onto the bandwagon to protest at this situation.

We are already witnessing the beginnings of a campaign which promises the creation of a seriously dangerous and complicated law; one which will prevent former ETA prisoners from living close to victims of the group’s actions. Indeed the government, in a panicky reaction to head off the inevitable noise that is approaching on the issue, has already announced that it is going to study such a proposal. Zapatero’s hope that he can prevent the issue of ETA from dominating the political agenda is again under threat. Now just in case anyone imagines that De Juana Chaos is deliberately choosing to live near to the victims, it should be pointed out that the flat where it is said he will live belonged to his mother. He will have served his sentences and will legally be free to live where he likes. Restricting the freedom of a person to live where they choose is potentially unconstitutional, although with the constitutional court’s membership depending on the two major parties such an obstacle can probably be overcome. Where there is a political will there is usually a political way.

Supposing the government decides to introduce such a law, a number of questions are raised. How big a distance would such a law propose? Many released ETA prisoners will take up residence in either Bilbao or San Sebastian, and the number of those resident in both cities who can be considered as victims is probably quite high too. What happens if the released prisoner has renounced any connection with ETA’s campaign? Will it apply to all offences committed by ETA members, if not which ones are to be included? In the end it results in a differential treatment for members of ETA than that received by other people who have also been found guilty of very serious offences, as well as trashing the idea that once you have served your sentence you are free. I’m not saying that it’s nice for someone affected by ETA’s actions to have to live alongside those who have been convicted for similar offences, but it does risk infringing so many principles to try and prevent it from happening. If my neighbour commits an offence against me and goes to prison for it there is no reason in the end why the same person cannot return and be my neighbour again after serving their sentence. With the proposed law he would presumably be unable to be my neighbour again only if he supports independence for the Basque Country! Hard hats on, this is a political hysteria alert.

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