Spain: Guardia Civil accused of cover-up in death in custody case
01 September 2005
On 11 August 2005, the Spanish interior minister Juan Antonio Alonso appeared before the Congreso (the parliament in Madrid) to report on the events surrounding the death of Juan Martínez Galdeano in the Guardia Civil station in Roquetas del Mar (Almería) on 24 July. Alonso provided a round-up of available information and of ongoing investigations and disciplinary measures. His statement included a detailed reconstruction of the images caught on a CCTV camera outside the station and included charges that the Guardia Civil in Roquetas del Mar had attempted to cover up information.
Translation of selected extracts:
"… today, it is already impossible to ignore an incontrovertible fact: a citizen who arrived at a police centre volutarily on his own in initiative experienced his death, inside the centre, after a long, violent encounter in which up to nine police officers took part, among whom was the leading officer in charge of the police unit".
"… on the evening of Sunday 24, aroung 17:00 hours, the second lieutenant instructing the case and the appointed commander [responsible for] carrying out this internal and reserved report travel to Roquetas and undertake their first activities, among which is the viewing of the closed-circuit television cassette of the station and, apparently, they do not see - as they say - any relevant fact because, as they were informed at the time - and we will talk about this subject - in the barrack-station by one of the guardias involved, the moments when Mr. Martínez Galdeano was restrained were in an area that was hidden from the view of the mentioned closed-circuit recording [system]. Something that turned out not to be true, as we will see later".
"…On the 25th, between 21 and 22 hours, I am called … by the government delegate in Andalusia and he tells me that, in the video, it is possible to see blows, the use of at least one electric truncheon and [informs me] of the decision to transfer the lieutenant from his post… I instruct him to pass all the available information that he has to me, in writing, which the government delegate does on the morning of the 26th, when I also talk to the general director of the Guardia Civil, who confirms the information… telling me that, effectively, at least one electric truncheon was used, that blows have been struck and that there may be aspects that obviously need to be clarified, very far beyond those that were known about previously".
"While he was being restrained on the ground, the plain-clothed lieutenant of the station appears, who, equipped with a defense [instrument], apparently rigid, of a telescopic type in one hand and with an electric defence [instrument] in the other, starts to restrain the detainees with defence [instrument] blows and electric discharges, at the same time as the detainee kicked out and made sharp body movements. After several minutes' struggle, one observes how he is dragged outside of the view of the camera, remaining in the courtyard until medical personnel appear around 20 minutes afterwards".
Account that follows the viewing of the entire tape by the commander conducting the investigation and drafting the report, quoted by Alonso:
"At 17.16 hours one can observe in the images, towards the front part of the vehicle, the appearance of the prisoner, handcuffed with his hands in front of him and only wearing underwear, who is being restrained by four other guardias civiles who are leaning over him as they attempt to hold him to the floor, at the same time as he can be seen defending himself.
Seconds later the lieutenant Rivas appears on the scene dressed in plain clothes and, equipped with a truncheon in his right hand, as can be appreciated, of a rigid telescopic kind and an electric defence [instrument] in the left hand begins to strike the detainee with both of them, at the same time as a female guardia civil [officer] hits him with a defence [instrument] of the regulamentary type on the leg