TO THE CONSEJO GENERAL DE LA ABOGACÍA ESPAÑOLA (GENERAL COUNCIL OF SPANISH LAWYERS)
The international Association of which I am president, the European Democratic Lawyers (AED) has had knowledge of serious procedural incidents during the oral hearings being held at the 3rd Section of the Audiencia Nacional (Case 18/98), through several of our members who have attended these hearings as accredited observers. Therefore, at the General Assembly held on January 20th in Brussels, the Association agreed to address this Council in order to state the following:
First. – Since the beginning of the Trial, several lawyers from our Association have regularly attended the oral hearings as juridical observers with due authorisation from the Tribunal. The incidents explained below were directly witnessed by the said observers.
Second. – One of the preliminary objections made by the defence counsel for the 58 defendants at the beginning of the oral hearings, referred to the fact that a large number of pieces of documentary evidence requested and approved by the Tribunal as anticipated evidence were not included in the Case files. The observers were able to verify, according to the account of evidence proposed and admitted and its state provided by the Secretary, that the said pieces of evidence had not been incorporated into the proceedings. Likewise, the defence requested the Secretary gave an account of the pieces of evidence which were at the disposal of the Court at that time, and that they be located among the proceedings, totalling in excess of 200,000 sheets. This request was disregarded.
The preliminary objection demanding the hearings be adjourned until all the agreed preliminary pieces of evidence were incorporated into the proceedings and made available to all the parties was rejected by the Tribunal, which agreed to resume the sessions.
Third. – During the session of December 20th, 2005, one of the requested and admitted preliminary pieces of evidence was incorporated into the proceedings. This piece was a set of older proceedings from Central Investigation Court No5, which were opened in 1989, and to which the prosecutions, booth the Prosecutor Fiscal and the private prosecution (Asociación de Víctimas del Terrorismo) had referred to as evidence. It was therefore clear that they were aware of the content of these proceedings.
The said piece of evidence amounts to approximately 100,000 sheets of paper.
Despite the fact that it had been added to the proceedings, the said piece of evidence was not made available to the counsel for the defence immediately. The reason given for this was that the Tribunal had to examine its content and organise it first.
Fourth. – More than one month later, the lawyers for the defence had not been given a copy of the said documents, and they had only been allowed to consult this material at the Secretary’s office within a very limited timetable. The defence therefore requested the Trial be adjourned for the time necessary to at least minimally appraise the content of such a voluminous piece of documentary evidence.
When this request was denied again, the lawyers for the defence called for backing from their respective Professional Bar Associations, which in turn addressed the Basque Lawyers’ Council. The latter issued a resolution that was very critical of the decision by the Court. We know that the Madrid Bar Association has also expressed itself in a similar vein.
Fifth. – As a consequence of the calls for backing, the Court issued a decision adjourning the Trial until January the 30th, 2006, which evidently still allows too little time to assess the piece of documentary evidence described above with full guarantees.
In view of all the above, the Association of which I am president has agreed to call on this General Council to make whichever decisions and initiate whichever actions it sees fit, in order to prevent new violations of the right to a defence in Case 18/98, and to express its support for the measures requested by the defence lawyers, aimed at safeguarding this right; including, insofar as it is necessary, an adjournment of the Trial until such a time as it can be resumed in accordance with juridically acceptable guarantees.
Brussels, January 21, 2006.
August Gil Matamala President of the AED.
Rambla de Catalunya 10, 2o 2a 08007 Barcelona