Security chief held in Eta `dirty war' case

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The Independent Online
The Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzalez, may face the biggest crisis of his 12-year rule after yesterday's detention of his former Director of State Security for alleged involvement in the "dirty war" against Basque separatists in the Eighties.

Julian Sancristobal, who as Security Director was number two in the Interior Ministry in the early and mid-Eighties, was ordered to be detained by Spain's best-known anti-corruption judge, Baltasar Garzon, on charges of attempted murder, illegal diversion of public funds and illegal detention.

The Spanish media are speculating that Mr Sancristobal, or his then boss, Interior Minister Jose Barrionuevo, may have been the mysterious "Mr X", suspected of liaising between Mr Gonzalez's Socialist government and the so-called Anti-Terrorism Liberation Group (GAL) that killed 25 Basques in the French Basque country between 1983 and 1987. Yesterday's detention, however, was the first link between Mr Gonzalez's government and the "dirty war" against Basque Eta guerrillas and sympathisers.

The key question Spaniards were asking was: if Mr Sancristobal turns out to be guilty of the alleged crimes, could he have acted for several years - using a "slush fund" - without the approval or at least knowledge of the Prime Minister? Many Spaniards believe Mr Sancristobal, a Basque who has been out of government office for eight years, may be "taking a fall" for his then superiors.

After a series of GAL-related trials in the mid-Eighties, during which Mr Barrionuevo blocked Judge Garzon's investigations by refusing to reveal payments from secret government funds, Mr Gonzalez's only response to questions of possible government involvement was the now-famous phrase: "there is no proof, nor will there ever be".

Judge Garzon recently dusted off the GAL files and some Spaniards believe he is after Mr Gonzalez's political head. Before last year's general elections, when Judge Garzon was a household name here as the "superjudge" who went after drugs and arms dealers, Mr Gonzalez convinced Mr Garzon to run for parliament on a Socialist ticket. The Prime Minister had said publicly that Mr Garzon would run an anti-corruption investigation but only gave him an anti-drugs post with little power. A furious Mr Garzon quit and went back to the High Court, sounding off in the media against corruption.

Mr Garzon's investigations led to the jailing in 1991 of two senior Spanish policemen, Jose Amedo and Michel Dominguez, for paying mercenary killers. Although jailed for 108 years, both were granted "third grade" prison status, meaning they only have to spend four weeknights in jail, can work outside and have annual "holidays". Many Spaniards speculated that their partial release had been the result of pressure, re-payment for their refusal to name anyone higher up.