At 9.40 this Thursday, with a firm step and accompanied by his lawyer and some friends, Carlos García Juliá has left the Soto del Real prison (Madrid) behind.
The ultra-rightist gunman who put the Transition in check, the author along with two other comrades of the 1977 Atocha massacre against a group of labor lawyers, is already walking free in Spain.
He does so after getting the Ciudad Real Provincial Court to advance his release by applying prison benefits that he obtained before he fled in the 90s and remained on the run from Spanish justice for more than two decades. “I already asked for forgiveness a long time ago,” said the murderer when he left the penitentiary.
“Have you complied with justice?” – the journalists stationed at the exit of prison have asked him.
“Justice has complied with me.”
“Apologize to the victims?”
“They will be the ones who have to forgive me […] I already asked for forgiveness a long time ago,” he says, although the last survivor of the crime, Alejandro Ruiz-Huerta, affirms that he has never approached them to do so.
The victims have fought until the last minute to try to prevent this moment. But they have not succeeded.
They have gone to the ordinary court, which has rejected their allegations. And, as a last resort, to the Constitutional Court . Their battle began on May 8, when they learned from the press that the Ciudad Real Court had agreed to advance the murderer’s departure to November 19.
Just three months earlier, Brazil had extradited him to Spain after capturing him at the end of 2018 after being on the run from justice since the 1990s. According to a calculation of February 21, 2020, the National Court calculated at that time that he still had to remain 3,854 days behind bars (more than 10 years).
“In our understanding, everything was correct in strict application of the law,” underlines Cristina Almeida, attorney for the victims.
The National Court had been the body that tried him and sentenced him to 193 years in prison in 1980. It had also ordered his international search and capture, and had arranged for his final surrender to the Spanish authorities.
“But, suddenly, we found out that they had taken [the issue] to Ciudad Real and a sentence was issued for which he had 287 days to serve,” adds the lawyer.
García Juliá’s defense took advantage of the fact that in his record there was a subsequent sentence handed down by the Provincial Court and, therefore, this body could take up the matter.
In 1979, during his stay in preventive prison awaiting trial for the Atocha massacre, he kidnapped the director of the Ciudad Real prison, his family, and an official to try to escape. A failed escape attempt that earned him another three and a half year sentence.
“I believed that politics would weigh more heavily in the resolutions of the National Court,” explained the murderer’s lawyer, Ignacio Menéndez.
“The liquidation [of the sentence] is done in an irregular and scandalous way, to say the least,” says Alejandro Ruiz-Huerta , retired professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Córdoba and the last survivor of the massacre. “What happened in Ciudad Real felt so strange…
One is amazed that justice can act like this. And the prosecutor’s refusal to appeal. And the National Court, which had requested the extradition, also ignores the issue, “he added in statements to EL PAÍS.
In the opinion of the victims, the advancement of his release violates the law, as prison benefits have been applied despite an attempt to escape from prison.
Menéndez defends, instead, the decision of the Provincial Court: “He has fully complied, not with justice, but with Spanish society until the last day. He is an absolutely free person ”.
García Juliá’s lawyer insists that “the principle of legality has been met” by applying those prison benefits that he had “consolidated” before his escape in the 1990s and that, as he emphasizes, the criminal code in force at that time allows.
In fact, the judges of Ciudad Real spoke along the same lines, recognizing the “contradiction and perplexity” that causes the murderer to “maintain the prison benefits obtained prior to his escape”, but that this was established by the regulations current at that time.
García Juliá, a regular at Fuerza Nueva’s events, broke into the Atocha labor office on the night of January 24, 1977, linked to the Workers’ Commissions (CC OO).
Together with two colleagues, José Fernández Cerrá and Fernando Lerdo de Tejada, he shot and killed Enrique Valdelvira, Luis Javier Benavides, Francisco Javier Sauquillo, Serafín Holgado and Ángel Rodríguez Leal. Four other people were seriously injured: Alejandro Ruiz-Huerta, Luis Ramos, Miguel Sarabia and María Dolores González.