Spain: Court report on the Gabriele Kanze case
01 June 2005
On 29 November 2004 Gabriele Emilie Kanze, a German citizen accused of cooperating with an armed group (ETA), and of possession and storage of weapons and explosives, was tried in the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid, which has exclusive competence for terrorist offences in Spain. A delegation of observers from Germany and Switzerland, which included MPs and representatives of lawyer and human rights organisations, travelled to Madrid to see the trial and the German consul was also present. Gabriele Kanze had been in prison, first in Switzerland and then in Spain, since March 2002, and she was freed in the afternoon following the trial after the prosecution dropped the charges relating to the possession and storage of weapons and explosives, and asked for a sentence of 2 years and 8 months to be passed against the defendant for cooperating with ETA's Comando Barcelona, whose members were arrested in 1994 in the Catalan capital. Her release was the result of a deal between the prosecution and defence lawyers which led to a short trial in which both the prosecution and defence summoned less witnesses to testify than had originally been envisaged. It is significant that the prosecutors asked for a sentence that was slightly shorter than the time Kanze had already spent in pre-trial detention, and that it was well below the minimum sentence envisaged for cooperating with an armed group (6 years). The grounds on which this request was justified by prosecutors was that she had cooperated with the ETA cell as a result of her "sentimental relationship" with her partner.
The charges against Kanze were a result of her having rented a flat in Calle Aragón (in August 1993) in Barcelona at the request of her partner Benjamín Ramos, which was found to have been used by the ETA cell, as had another flat in nearby Calle Padilla, where explosives were found during a police search in 1994. Gabriele Kanze admitted to the court that she had rented the flat at Ramos' behest to host friends, or people attending a language academy, in the summer of 1993, although she denied having handled weapons or explosives, having had any knowledge that the flat had been used to store weapons or explosives, that her partner was collaborating with ETA or that he had rented another flat that was used by the cell in Calle Padilla. She also stated that she had left Spain well before the searches, and that the flat was not for her and she didn't pay for it, although she admitted setting up a bank account through which rent payments were made.
Three policemen who were involved in the searches of the two flats and the operation were called to testify as witnesses before the court by the prosecution, which saw the involvement of a public prosecutor (who asked for 22-year sentence to be passed) and a private prosecution on behalf of the Asociación de Victimas del Terrorismo (Association of Victims of Terrorism), which called for 14-year sentences to be passed for each of the charges (cooperating with an armed group, and possession and storage of weapons and explosives). The police officers testified before the court from behind a screen which prevented the audience from seeing them, as protected witnesses, a normal practice for cases involving terrorist offences in Spain. The first police officer, who had taken part in the search in the flat that Benjamin Ramos rented in Calle Padilla, indicated that some explosives were found, although he did not remember whether or not any weapons were also found. The second, who had taken part in the search of the flat which Kanze rented in Calle Aragón, stated that no weapons or explosives were found during the search. The third police officer who appeared was the head of the Brigada de Información (information brigade) in Barcelona, who was responsible for ordering the searches. He stated that he had information indicating that Benjamín Ramos and his then girlfriend were collaborators of the Comando Barcelona. A member of the ET