Aiding and abetting a terrorist group is a serious crime in Spain, punishable by jail terms of up to ten years. So if it should turn out that the country’s very own interior minister gave terrorists advance notice of an imminent police raid, and later apologized to them for not having aborted it, then it stands to reason that the government — which has since elevated the minister in question to deputy premier and political heir apparent — is in big trouble, and it is time to think about a vote of confidence and have the courts prepare indictments and the media raise all kinds of hell. But will any of that actually happen?
The terrorist group, of course, is ETA, and the incident all Spain refers to as “the big tip-off”occurred back in May 2006, when Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was desperately eager (as he still is) to reach a deal with the separatist group that has killed over 800 people since 1968 in its bid to set up an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.
The outcome of what the feckless, clueless Zapatero still insists on calling a “peace process” would become apparent half a year after that incident, when the terrorists blew up a parking ramp at Madrid’s Barajas Airport and crushed two people to death. The reason ETA gave for the “accident” — that’s what Zapatero called it — was that the Spanish premier had not kept his promises of political concessions that he repeatedly assured the public he never made.
But before it came to that, Zapatero had offered all sorts of deal sweeteners, good faith gestures, and parity — a democratic government negotiating on equal footing with killers. It was never much of a secret, though it could not be proven and was denied by, among others, Zapatero’s high-profile interior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. But how far Zapatero would go in that direction and how abject he would be did not emerge until just this week
The smoking document is an internal memorandum prepared by and for ETA’s top ringleaders that gives verbatim extracts from talks held with two officials of the Zapatero government in June 2006. It was confiscated by French police in 2008 when they arrested ETA’s chief political strategist and released this week by order of High Court Judge Pedro Ruz, who is investigating the tip-off incident. Its self-evident veracity lies in the fact that it was not leaked or made public or channeled through one or another of the terrorist front groups — it was strictly for eyes-only internal circulation.
Confirmation that ETA had been warned about the raid that took place earlier that same month comes in the form of a groveling apology by one of the government envoys for having allowed it to happen. “This is a serious accident. I don’t know what to tell you — I was really upset when I heard about it and I can understand you guys were too,” he says, using the familiar/friendly form of address. ”They tried everything but they just weren’t able to stop it,” he reassured them.
Then the envoy goes on to admit that a political decision has been made to go easy on terrorists. “We have told the National Police, the Civil Guards, the Ertzaintza (Basque police force), and the French police not to make any arrests and it hasn’t been easy because that kind of order doesn’t get put into writing.” Evidently not. Evidence pieced together by Judge Ruz seems to show that the heads-up was home-delivered to the terror gang.
On May 4, a man since identified as a police inspector, had called on the owner of a sleazy bar in the town of Irun, on the French-Spanish border, that served as a clearing house for the money ETA obtained through its program of systematic extortion of Basque business owners and executives.