28 March 2012
On 17 January 2001, police in Amsterdam raided a famous 'legalised squat' and arrested Juan Ramón Rodrìguez Fernández, wanted by the Spanish police in connection with investigations into the separatist Basque group ETA. Special criminal investigators and riot police, numbering up to 200 according to reports, entered the residential area of the Vrankrijk building (which was purchased by squatters in 1991 and also houses a popular cafe) at 3.30 a.m., searching all 14 apartments and allegedly leaving a neighbour needing hospital treatment after she was struck by a police baton. Several Spanish books, two mobile phones and some "replica weapons" (water-pistols) were confiscated by the police. According to a statement issued by the residents the police did not have warrants for all the flats. Those inside were not allowed to call a solicitor, or to leave the apartments, and only a few were told of the reason for the raid.
Fernández is the lead singer of KOP, a politically inspired band from Catalonia, and is accused by the Spanish police of having links to an "ETA-cell" that was rounded-up in Barcelona last year. He is wanted for allegedly passing information on Spanish neo-nazi groups such as Cedade to ETA, although this information is not known to have lead to any offences being committed.
A new era of police cooperation?
The Dutch media has reported that the Spanish Guardia civil told the Dutch police that this suspected ETA-member was setting-up a network in Amsterdam, and that the Vrankrijk building had been under increased surveillance due to a royal wedding with nearby celebrations. After Juan was spotted, Dutch counter-terrorist officers were informed, and following enquiries to Spain, he was arrested to be extradited.
Statewatch has learned that the case was handled by "pro-Eurojust", the provisional EU prosecutions unit set-up in December 2000 (see Statewatch vol 10, no 5 below). It will be formally created and located in the Hague alongside Europol after a recently agreed EU Council Decision is rubber-stamped by justice ministers. Comprised of prosecutors and/or police from each member state, the "provisional" unit handled 170 cases within its first year, although in its current incarnation it is has no legal personality and is technically an EU Council working party with a mandate to facilitate cross-border investigations and prosecutions. Pro-Eurojust's involvement in the case suggests that there may have been more pre-planning to the raid than has been reported.
Residents and activists claim the "overdrawn and unrighteous" operation was a direct result of the "freaked out war on terrorism" and carried the added benefit of harassing and discrediting the squatters, whose premises have been referred to as a 'no-go area' for the Amsterdam police.
In support of Juan, the Vrankrijk residents claim that the Spanish police have no evidence against him and say that:
"He is a squatter, singer in a well known band, and activist from Barcelona. As such, some people were acquainted with him, and when he wanted to stay he could, of course. The suggestion… that he would be building a secret network in the Netherlands is utterly absurd… [Vrankrijk is] possibly one of the most watched places by the police in Amsterdam."
Under an EU Framework Decision on a European Arrest Warrant (see Statewatch vol 11, no 5), the text of which has been frozen following "political agreement", the Dutch police would have been under an obligation to arrest Juan and the grounds for refusing his subsequent extradition to Spain severely restricted. This will depend how the member states implement the system into their national law, but the "political offence" exception to current EU extradition procedures will no longer exist. The "eurowarrants" agreement is to be implemented by 2004.
Sources/links: Press statement from the Vrankrijk residents, 17.1.01; www.indymedia.nl; Buro Jansen & Janssen
For up to date infromation please see: www.freejuanra.org
Background feature from Statewatch bulletin on: Eurojust
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