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Viewing cable 07MADRID449, SPANISH INTERIOR MINISTER RUBALCABA ON DE JUANA

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MADRID449 2007-03-08 19:07 2010-12-09 12:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Madrid
VZCZCXRO0119
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHMD #0449/01 0671933
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 081933Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2048
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 6004
RUEHLA/AMCONSUL BARCELONA 2516
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MADRID 000449

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FOR EUR/WE CLEMENTS AND CERVETTI

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/07/2017
TAGS: PREL SP
SUBJECT: SPANISH INTERIOR MINISTER RUBALCABA ON DE JUANA
CHAOS DECISION; ETA TERRORISM; KEY BILATERAL ISSUES

REF: MADRID 432

MADRID 00000449 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: AMBASSADOR EDUARDO AGUIRRE FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (C) Summary: During a March 7 lunch with Spanish Minister
of Interior Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Ambassador Aguirre heard
the Spanish government's defense of its recent controversial
decision to allow convicted ETA assassin Inaki De Juana Chaos
to serve out the rest of his sentence under house arrest (see
REFTEL for Embassy analysis on this issue). De Juana was
close to death due to a 4-month hunger strike, and Minister
Rubalcaba said that the decision was the correct one because
it allowed the GOS to prevent De Juana from becoming a
"decades-long martyr for radical ETA youth." He said the GOS
was solely responsible for the decision, without any
discussion with or pressure from ETA. Rubalcaba also said
that ETA had the power to put the opposition Partido Popular
(PP) "in the driver's seat" by assassinating one or more
individuals of consequential PP rank or position, but was
unsure if ETA leaders would want to do this. The Interior
Minister said, responding to our request, he was closely
following developments on the Couso case and the CIA flights
issue, and was eager to see a cooling of Spanish emotions in
both cases. Finally, Rubalcaba asked the Ambassador for
further reasons behind the postponement of the proposed March
visit to Madrid by Secretary Rice. The Minister expressed
appreciation for his meetings with the Ambassador, as
opportunities to exchange ideas and gain perspective. End
Summary.

//GOS Decision Saved Lives//

2. (C) Rubalcaba told the Ambassador that the decision to
allow convicted ETA assassin Inaki De Juana Chaos to serve
the remaining 18 months of his sentence at home under house
arrest was the correct one. (Embassy Note: On March 1,
incarcerated ETA member Inaki De Juana Chaos was released
from the Madrid hospital where he was being treated for a
hunger strike and was transferred to a hospital in San
Sebastian. When he has recovered from the affects of the
4-month hunger strike, he will be allowed to complete his
sentence at home under police surveillance. De Juana had
almost completed 17 years of a 30-year sentence for the
murder of 18 individuals when he became eligible for early
release in 2005. A National Court magistrate blocked De
Juana's release in 2005 by charging him with writing letters
threatening prison officials, and De Juana was later
sentenced to an additional 12 years behind bars. The Supreme
Court in February 2007 reduced that sentence to 3 years,
leaving only 18 months remaining due to time already served,
and setting the stage for the government's decision to
release him). Minister Rubalcaba said that his government
knew the decision would be controversial, but that government
officials had not done a good job explaining to the Spanish
people that De Juana had already served his time for the
murders, and remained in prison only on the lesser charge of
making threatening statements. Rubalcaba confided to the
Ambassador that as the end of De Juana's murder sentence drew
near in 2005, the Minister of Justice at that time did not
want to see the convicted assassin go free. He thus sought
to slap on an additional charge--albeit an obscure one with
flimsy merits--that would continue the ETA member's
incarceration. Rubalcaba said that in hindsight, it would
have been better to allow De Juana to go free in 2005 and
that now the Zapatero Government was "paying the price" for
that decision.

3. (C) Rubalcaba said that at the time of De Juana's release,
the ETA member was just hours away from suffering medically
irreversible damage due to his hunger strike, and would have
died in a short time if the GOS had not acted. Rubalcaba's
view is that the decision to release De Juana saved Spanish
lives by avoiding his transformation into a "decades-long
martyr for radical ETA youth." Rubalcaba said the GOS was
solely responsible for the decision, without any discussion
with or pressure from ETA. The Minister told the Ambassador
that despite the De Juana case becoming a rallying cry for
ETA members in recent weeks, current ETA leaders have no use
for him in the organization and will not want anything to do
with him once he is freed. Rubalcaba posited that De Juana
will likely retire to Morocco upon his release.

//ETA Could Put PP in Driver Seat//

4. (C) Turning to broader ETA issues, the Minister discussed
the virulent reaction to the De Juana decision by the main
opposition Partido Popular (PP). Rubalcaba told the

MADRID 00000449 002.2 OF 003


Ambassador that the GOS knows ETA could "put the PP in the
driver's seat" in advance of regional elections in May and
national elections in early 2008 by assassinating one or more
individuals of important PP rank or position. Rubalcaba
quickly said his government is unsure whether current ETA
leaders would risk taking this step, but the fear is that any
ETA sympathizer would have the power to change the political
calculus in Spain with one rash act. In discussing the
December 30 ETA bombing at Madrid's Barajas airport that
killed two individuals, Rubalcaba said that act proved the
ETA hard-liners had won out over those favoring moderation,
and derailed the peace process. Rubalcaba said that ETA's
political front group Batasuna is still working every angle
to try and gain permission to run in Basque municipal
elections in May, but the Barajas bombing has made that
scenario even more problematic.

//Bilateral Issues//

5. (C) The Ambassador expressed his appreciation to Minister
Rubalcaba for the strong level of counterterrorism
cooperation, specifically the development of the Bilateral
Counterterrorism Working Group. He said the working group is
an effective vehicle to improve judicial efforts against
terrorism in both countries. The Ambassador also reiterated
USG support for Spain's efforts in fighting terrorism and
said that the ongoing trial of individuals allegedly involved
in the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings highlights the
continued threat facing both of our countries. When the
Ambassador conveyed continued Department and National
Security Council interest in the possible terrorist
designation of Barakat Yarkas, Rubalcaba replied that he was
aware that this was still a pending issue between our
governments and knows that it needs to be addressed. The
Minister told the Ambassador that responding to our request,
he was also following developments on the Jose Couso case
(the Spanish TV cameraman killed in the Palestine Hotel
incident in Iraq) and the CIA flights issue that have been
the subject of much sensational press coverage in Spain in
recent weeks. Rubalcaba said that although the Spanish
judiciary was fiercely independent and would do what it
thought was right, Rubalcaba had instructed his staff to
avoid any inflammatory rhetorical comments in an attempt to
lower the temperature on these issues.

//S Visit to Madrid//

6. (C) Minister Rubalcaba pressed the Ambassador for the
"real reason" why the Secretary postponed her proposed March
visit to Spain. The Ambassador replied that the postponement
was purely for scheduling reasons due to the Secretary's
planned travel and had nothing to do with any problems in the
bilateral relationship. Ambassador Aguirre noted that the
Secretary's recent phone call with Foreign Minister

SIPDIS
Moratinos, informing him that she needed to testify in
Congress on March 28, confirmed what the Ambassador had said.
Rubalcaba seemed satisfied with the answer. The Ambassador
reminded Rubalcaba that if sectors of the Spanish Government
continue to insist that there are signs of a deteriorating
bilateral relationship when no signs exist, they run the risk
of reversing some of the improvements made in the
relationship over the past two years. Although the GOS has
not confirmed the Secretary's new proposed visit date of June
1, Rubalcaba raised the possibility of the GOS eventually
making some kind of statement confirming the visit. The
Ambassador suggested to Rubalcaba that for security and
logistical reasons, it was probably not wise to confirm the
exact date of such a visit three months out, and the Minister
agreed with the reasoning. (Note: Embassy is working with
Washington, at the request of the Spanish MFA, to develop
some kind of public statement indicating that S had planned
to visit in March, is committed to coming to Spain, and that
dates are being worked out. MFA would like to publicize a
precise date for a rescheduled visit, but this issue is under
discussion between the Embassy and Washington.)

7. (C) Comment. Rubalcaba said he was weighed down with the
issues currently facing him and remarked that he "felt the
weight of Spain on his shoulders." He is currently living
above the Ministry due to repairs and refurbishment occurring
at his house and said that living so close to the office made
it hard to "disconnect": that he is having trouble sleeping
at night. Although he shows no outward signs of stress, the
events since the December 30 ETA bombing have clearly taken a
toll. The Minister said that he appreciated opportunities
such as these to exchange ideas and gain perspective and
hopes they will continue.

MADRID 00000449 003.2 OF 003


AGUIRRE