Being drunk in a café is ‘terrorism’ in Spain

This 14 July 2017 Spanish language video is about a big demonstration in Pamplona (Basque language: Iruñea), demanding to free the young people Jokin, Adur and Oihan of Alsasua town.

Translated from Belgian (Roman Catholic pro-establishment) daily De Standaard today:

Eight Spanish youths who, after a night out, have hit members of the Guardia Civil, are on trial for terrorism and risk years of prison.

A café quarrel of national importance

By our editor Corry Hancké

What for eight young Spanish people started out as an ordinary, alcoholic quarrel with police, could end with a prison sentence of 12 to 62 years.

The facts. On an October evening in 2016, a lieutenant and sergeant of the Guardia Civil, together with their wives, go to the café in Alsasua. This town is located in a region in Navarre where sympathy exists for the Basque separatist movement ETA and where members of the Guardia Civil are often not popular.

At four o’clock in the morning a man comes in who quarrels with the police officers. According to his statements in retrospect, he was angry because he had been fined for traffic violations and for his participation in a demonstration for the release of ETA prisoners.

The young people in the bar come to assist the man and the words become more intense … When the law enforcement officers and their wives want to leave the bar, they have to pass a row of furious Basques and get beaten. …

Already the day after the incident, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a tweet expressed his support to the policemen who have been victims of ‘brutal aggression’. “There will be no impunity”, he writes.

At the beginning of this week the trial about the incident started.


It is yet another extremely delicate matter for Spain, because -depending on the reading of the facts- it is either a banal café quarrel or radical young people who have threatened the police forces.

That last viewpoint is followed by the magistrate, Carmen Lamella. She is also the investigating judge at the Audiencia Nacional who thinks that the Catalan separatist government is guilty of ‘rebellion’ and thus risks 25 years in prison. That is why this case comes before the Audiencia Nacional, the court that deals with special crimes, including terrorism.

Vague definition

That the banal café quarrel goes all the way to the Audiencia Nacional is due to the changes in Article 573 of the Criminal Code, which now uses a very broad definition of terrorism. A too broad definition, says Amnesty International, the NGO that sounded the alarm at the time of the changes in the law in 2015. ‘The definition now includes so many crimes that they actually do not have any sense anymore‘, they said in the press release. “Some parts of the article are so vague that even a seasoned lawyer would have trouble knowing what a terrorist act is.”

Because they are under Article 573, three of the eight suspects have been held in custody in Madrid since November 2016, almost four hundred kilometers from their home in Navarre. They have limited visitor rights.

Textbook example

In the trial, the prosecutor argued that the suspects were guilty of ‘terrorist injuries’. He multiplied the 12.5 years of punishment by four, because there are four victims.

One of the young people is also being charged with terrorist threats because he had called for the policemen to be ‘treated like that’ every time they would show up at the café again. He risks 62.5 years in prison.

The café quarrel has in the meantime got national media attention because critics of the anti-terrorist law see in this case a textbook example of wrong policy. Amnesty International says that the terror accusation must be canceled. The investigative judge Baltasar Garzón [ex-Audiencia Nacional, where he prosecuted ETA members; sacked for political reasons, for investigating crimes of the Franco dictatorship] even writes in El País that the Spanish government has defined a number of laws so broadly that they can be used for political purposes.

8 thoughts on “Being drunk in a café is ‘terrorism’ in Spain

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