Gonzalez accused of jail deal

JOSE AMEDO is likely to be out fishing near his home town of Lugo in the Galicia region of north-west Spain today. Tomorrow, the former police deputy superintendent starts work in Madrid as a 'public relations consultant' for a legal firm.

Nothing unusual about that, except that Amedo, 48, is still serving a jail term, facing 102 more years for involvement in a dirty war waged by mercenary killers known as the GAL (Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups), allegedly financed by Felipe Gonzalez's government, against ETA Basque guerrillas in the early 1980s.

A controversial decision approved by Mr Gonzalez's government last week granted 'third-grade' prison status to Amedo and another former senior police officer, Michel Dominguez. Each was jailed for 108 years in 1991 for organising and paying mercenaries from a secret slush fund. They had spent three years in detention.

The new status means both will have to return to a Madrid jail by midnight tomorrow night, but only for 'bed and breakfast', before leaving again for work. They have to spend the nights of Monday to Thursday in jail, are free the rest of the time and have seven weeks' 'holiday' a year, with no spells in jail at all.

The government decision has outraged much of Spain, particularly the Basque country, brought opposition accusations of a 'veiled pardon to keep their mouths shut' and resuscitated a case once seen as a serious threat to Mr Gonzalez's political survival.

Judicial sources with intricate knowledge of the case say Amedo and Dominguez, at the time senior officers in the Basque region, were working on the orders of a senior Interior Ministry official known to investigators only as 'Mr X'. Friends of the two men say they believe Mr X was acting with the approval of then Interior Minister, Jose Barrionuevo, and Prime Minister Gonzalez himself. The friends say Amedo and Dominguez received pay- offs to keep quiet and 'take the fall', with the promise of swift pardons.

Mr Barrionuevo, now a Socialist MP, has always denied involvement, but blocked the investigation when a magistrate said the GAL had been financed by a secret slush fund drawn from what are officially known as the government's reserved funds. Mr Barrionuevo, citing 'government orders', forbade Interior Ministry staff to give evidence on the funds. 'To provide such information on reserved expenses would generate a precedent of unforeseeable consequences,' he said.

As for Mr Gonzalez, he made one public pronouncement after allegations that he knew of the GAL's activities: 'There is no proof, nor will there ever be.' He has remained silent on the case ever since.

The GAL surfaced in 1983 when ETA (a Basque-language acronym for Basque Homeland and Liberty) was causing havoc with bombings and assassinations, mainly aimed at Guardia Civil and military personnel, but often killing innocent civilians. Such was public outrage that the GAL's retaliatory killings gained strong support.

Amedo and Dominguez, according to the evidence, relied mainly on Portuguese mercenaries, who killed 25 people in the French Basque country between 1983 and 1987. Nine of the victims were thought to have had no link with ETA; the mercenaries burst into Basque bars and fired indiscriminately.

At the time, Mr Gonzalez was known to be upset by a lack of French co-operation in flushing out ETA bases on the French side of the border. As it turned out, the GAL's activities forced the French government to become involved, and French police action has led to the capture of ETA leaders.

Amedo's big mistake was to flaunt his new-found wealth by gambling away a fortune in the casino in the Basque city of San Sebastian. Investigators said he spent 27 million pesetas (then worth about pounds 150,000) while his salary was only pounds 13,000 a year.

In an interview in prison last month, in which he implicitly threatened to 'sing' if he was not freed soon, Amedo predicted that 'those really responsible' would end up in jail, 'and I'll bring them sandwiches'.

After Friday's bloody ETA bomb attack that killed a general and two others in Madrid, some Spaniards were heard to say: 'Bring back the GAL. Now that Amedo's out, he can go after them.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us