28 March 2012
report on the Gabriele Kanze case
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 ETA cell in question who is serving a prison sentence for membership of ETA was also called to testify about her relationship with the accused, and about whether Kanze had been cooperating with her cell. Rosario Ezquerra Pérez de Nanclares denied having ever seen Kanze before, or having any knowledge of her collaborating with the cell. She was reminded of two previous instances, once in a statement made to Guardia Civil officers and another in front of a court, both in 1995, when she had stated that she knew Kanze, as well as knowing her to be a collaborator. Pérez de Nanclares claimed that these statements were false, and that they were a result of the torture and ill-treatment to which she was subjected, adding that she arrived before the judge in "pitiful conditions". Her claims that she had been tortured were not pursued any further.
The defence called upon two witnesses, B. K., a friend of hers, and H. Ü., with whom she had set up a cooperative language academy in Berlin, both of whom testified that she had returned to Germany in the Autumn of 2003, and H. Ü. added that she had been teaching without interruption from October 1993 to June 1994.
Thus, she had not been in Barcelona for several months before police discovered and searched the flats on 28 April 2004, and no weapons or explosives were found in the flat that she had rented.
Following the testimonies, the public prosecutor withdrew the charges against Kanze for possession and storage of weapons and explosive, noting that she did not appear to have known about them "at any time", and maintained the charge of having cooperated with an armed group under article 576 of the Spanish Penal Code (which carries a minimum prison sentence of six years), with the mitigating circumstance that she had done so for sentimental reasons as a result of her relationship with Benjamín Ramos, to whom she later got married. The public prosecutor thus lowered his request to a two year and eight month sentence, a decision which the AVT prosecutor also supported.
The closing statement by the prosecutor argued that, as Ramos was part of the infrastructure of the Comando Barcelona, Kanze had helped to provide a flat for the cell, although it was not proven that she knew about the weapons and explosives. Kanze admitted to having rented the flat although she didn't need one to live in, on request from her partner, and the prosecutor also argued that she knew about the existence of ETA and about her partner's activities and, consequently, had cooperated with the armed group. He also referred back to the testimony by Pérez de Nanclares, noting that although she claimed she had never seen her in court, she had previously stated that she knew that Kanze was part of the cell's infrastructure, referring to her as "the German". He asked for Kanze to be found guilty, and for a two year and eight-month sentence to be passed. The AVT prosecutor argued that the evidence that she had been responsible for the flat rental (which she admitted and is documented) meant that she could not be acquitted. He also criticised the German observers present at the trial for their support of the accused.
The closing statement by the defence lawyer argued that the defendant also sought justice, as she had "no knowledge and had not handled any weapons or explosives", no weapons or explosives were found in the flat she had rented, and consequently, it was legally correct to withdraw the charges related to weapons and explosives. Moreover, she noted that there was only one collaborator, Benjamín Ramos, who sought accomodation for the cell, and claimed that when they were arrested the other cell members did not recognise Kanze, whereas Ramos did. She argued that if there was anything Kanze was guilty of, it was of renting a flat, something for which she had already been punishment more than sufficiently, and that there is more than a reasonable doubt that she had any relation whatsoever with ETA. The defence also called for Kanze's immediate release, as the judicial process had lasted years, and she had been detained in complete isolation in Switzerland, and in provisional and preventative detention in Spain, for a total of over two years and eight months. Judicial proceedings into the charges of possession of weapons and explosive had been dropped in Germany due to lack of evidence to support them, although the Spanish authorities had presented the discovery of a harmless substance, "lead sulphide", as evidence of her guilt.
The judge ordered Gabriele Emilie Kanze's immediate release. On 12 January 2005 the third section of the Audiencia Nacional confirmed that Kanze was found guilty of cooperating with the ETA cell, and passed a two year and eight month prison sentence against her.
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