Spain lied to France about Yvan Colonna, admits liaison judge

  • In 2002, he convinced French authorities to sign the Malaga agreement by telling them that Colonna was located in Spain, but it was false.

21.02.2024 - 18:49
Actualització: 21.02.2024 - 18:50

Spanish Audiencia Nacional judge Manuel García-Castellón, instructor of the case against Tsunami Democràtic, admitted in a conference in October that he deliberately lied to French authorities to push them to sign the Malaga agreement, a bilateral agreement between Spain and France for the immediate delivery of judicial information.

The agreement was promoted by Spain to expedite investigations into ETA members, but France was not willing to participate. Therefore García-Castellón deceived them by making them believe that Corsican activist Yvan Colonna was in southern Spain.

At the time, the conference drew attention because the judge publicly criticized amnesty while it was still being negotiated. But now it has become relevant again because, as Basque journalist Silvia Intxaurrondo pointed out, he also explained the lie to French authorities.

García-Castellón spoke about the difficulties judges face in obtaining cooperation from other states when he recounted an anecdote, as he presented it, about the negotiations for the Malaga agreement: “I was a liaison magistrate in France for twelve years and five in Italy. The twelve in France made me see what international cooperation is in such a painful issue as ETA. You really see what non-cooperation is like. How they leave you alone, without any help. I myself cried in front of a prosecutor who dealt with these issues in France because he did not want to give us something obvious. I cried out of helplessness. Not many times, but a couple.”

“They had to sign in Malaga an agreement between [José María] Aznar and the French Prime Minister, [Jean-Pierre] Raffarin,” he recalled, explaining that it was an agreement for “immediate exchange of information.” “We had a meeting at the judicial school in Bordeaux with the French and Spanish parties. They told us ‘no,’ that the immediate exchange of information was impossible to give us because it involved making procedural data public, and therefore, it couldn’t be given,” he explained.

Faced with this, García-Castellón publicly expressed how impotent he felt: “The situation was horrible. We had a lot of deaths annually, with all the extortions and everything.” To try to unlock it, the judge used the interest of the French authorities in arresting Colonna, who was sought after for the death of Prefect Claude Érignac, to deceive them and make them believe he was in southern Spain.

“Colonna was the most wanted man in France, and he was missing. It had been almost four years. In that tense environment, when you see they’re not giving it to you, after eight hours in a meeting room, I came up with a lie. I said ‘OK, but Colonna is located in Spain. When we arrest him, we won’t give you the information,'”.

After that, French negotiators asked for more time, went out of the meeting room, and when they came back in, they agreed to sign the agreement. “They signed it in Malaga, but they didn’t comply. Or they complied when they wanted to. That’s the reality. As sad as that,” he said.

Colonna was wanted for over four years and despite García-Castellón’s lie or the belief that he had fled to South America, he never left Corsica. He was found in the mountains of Corsica in June 2003 and was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and belonging to a terrorist organization, although he always denied it. In prison, he was subjected to an extreme penitentiary regime, with maximum isolation, and kept away from Corsica.

In March 2022, he was murdered in prison. According to prison authorities, the perpetrator of the crime was a jihadist prisoner, who beat and strangled him. He was transferred to the intensive care unit of the North Hospital in Marseille, but he ended up dying, sparking a wave of protests from Corsican independence activists.


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