Spain: Punishment without a sentence

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On 29 November, the trial of Gabriele Kanze will begin before the Audiencia Nacional, the central Spanish criminal prosecution court. The 48 year old teacher from Berlin has been in prison for two years and eight months, first in extradition detention, then on remand

"I am glad that finally something is happening", Gabriele Kanze wrote in June this year from her pre-trial detention in Brieva in the Spanish province of Avila. In March 2002, she was arrested whilst crossing the border to Switzerland. In January 2003, she was extradited to Spain and since then she has been held on remand. According to Spanish procedural law, pre-trial detention can last up to two years without being reviewed if the charges could lead to long sentences. In Kanze's case, the authorities could therefore detain her without trial until January 2005. The Spanish justice authorities gave the bill of indictment Gabriele Kanze's lawyer only in April this year, though it is dated December 2003. After some delays, the first trial day is now set for the end of November.

Varying information about flats and weapons

In its bill of indictment, the public prosecutor accuses Gabriele Kanze of possession of arms and explosives as well as of supporting an armed group, namely, the ETA commando "Barcelona". The prosecution demands 8 years each for the first two charges, for the latter a six years prison sentence.. Only 10 lines of the nine page long indictment however relate to Gabriele Kanze, the remaining pages outline the membership and actions of the ETA commando. She is accused of having rented two apartments in Barcelona together with her partner and current husband Benjamin Ramos, which allegedly served as the commando's hiding place and weapons and explosives depot.

The flats in questions were discovered by police on 28 April 1994, after the arrest of Felipe San Epifanio, one of the commando's members. San Epifanio was, said his lawyers, tortured during his five day long incommunicado detention (being held without the right to communicate) - this form of detention being legal in terrorism cases under Spanish procedural law - but rejected by the court.

The police only found weapons in one of the flats identified by San Epifanio and this flat had not been rented by Gabriele Kanze but by Benjamin Ramos, who was arrested in Berlin in 1995. He was extradited one year later and sentenced in 1997 by the Audiencia Nacional on grounds of support of the ETA commando. Significantly, the court then found that Ramos was not to be made responsible for the weapons depot in the apartment. After leasing the apartment he did not have power of disposition over the property anymore, the court found, thereby clearly exonerating him from all charges concerning the arms depot. He was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for fleeing the police when he escaped with the rest of the group after the arrest of San Epifanio and for having fitted a car with a fake license plate.

The contract for the other flat, actually rented by Gabriele Kanze, is dated the summer of 1993. At this time, she was working as an exchange teacher in Barcelona, counting on a much longer duration of her stay. These plans changed and she returned to Berlin in September 1993. In the Audiencia Nacional in 1997, the commando members confirmed they did not know Gabriele Kanze. In April 1994 - when the police found thje flats - she had already been back in Germany for six months, and she did not leave Germany until her arrest at the Swiss border in March 2002. It was therefore impossible for her to have power of disposition over the property.

At that time Kanze could not be extradited from Germany so the Spanish authorities filed a request with the German authorities in 1994 to take over the prosecution of Kanze on grounds of the Spanish charges. At the time, a prosecution on grounds of supporting ETA was not possible in Germany, because the criminal offence of forming or being a member

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