STRASBOURG, France – The European Court of Human Rights sided on Monday with a member of the Basque terrorist group ETA who challenged Spain’s legal grounds for keeping her in prison.
Judges on the Strasbourg-based ECHR voted 16-1 to order Spain to immediately released Ines del Rio Prada, who has been behind bars since 1989 in connection with 23 killings carried out by ETA.
Del Rio was sentenced to more than 3,000 years in prison, but Spanish law establishes a maximum confinement period of 30 years.
When she became eligible for parole, Spanish authorities invoked the “Parot doctrine,” under which eligibility for early release is calculated on the basis of each individual offense covered by the cumulative sentence, rather than the effective 30-year limit.
The Parot doctrine contravenes Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the lawful detention of individuals, as well as Article 7, which bars the retroactive imposition of a harsher sentence, the ECHR found.
Del Rio “has, therefore, served a longer term of imprisonment than she should have served under the domestic legislation in force at the time of her conviction,” the ECHR said, ordering the Spanish government to “ensure that the applicant is released at the earliest possible date.”
The ruling does not mention the cases of 76 other Spanish convicts – including 61 ETA members – whose time in prison has been extended through the application of the Parot doctrine.
While pledging to respect the verdict, the Spanish government said it would not alter its policies or relent in the pursuit of ETA, which has killed more than 850 people since 1968 in its campaign for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwestern France.
Groups representing victims of terrorism in Spain reacted with anger to the court ruling.