Remorseful ETA terrorists are asking victims' relatives to pardon them for their bloody deeds. Discreet but highly-emotive meetings are now taking place between former terrorists and victims' families. Two protagonists talk of the experience.
The initiative for the meetings came from ETA terrorists imprisoned at Nanclares de Oca. Many have had their sentences reduced for cutting ties with ETA and showing remorse for their crimes. Some prisoners have chosen to go a step further—to ask their surviving victims or their relatives to pardon them. Both sides agree to one pre-condition: no further reduction in the prisoners' sentences.
Spain's Office for the Victims of Terrorism took a hand in putting the convicts' initiative into effect. Txema Urkijo, who has long been involved in peace initiatives in the Basque Country, played a key role.
A team of mediation experts prepared the meetings with great care. Eleven meetings have been held to date. The former terrorists get the chance to speak to victims' relatives and ask them for pardon whether for their own deeds or those of ETA as a whole.
‘30 minuts' talks to two of those involved in the meetings. The first is Iñaki Garcia Arrizabalaga, the son of Juan Manuel García Cordero, who was murdered by ETA in 1980. He talks frankly of his heart-rending meeting with a former ETA terrorist who has preferred to remain anonymous. The other person interviewed is Iñaki Rekarte, who set off a car bomb in Santander in 1992. The blast killed three passers-by. After 20 years in prison, he is now on day-parole and only has to sleep at Martutene prison. He relates his meeting with the widow of an ETA victim and how he came to break with the terrorist organisation.
"I wanted to know if terrorists look their victims in the eye before slaying them. He told me, as I suspected,that they look away, " said Iñaki Garcia Arrizabalaga after his blood-chilling meeting with a former terrorist.
"The order was to kill as many people as we could. That's the way it was," admitted Iñaki Rekarte, talking about the Santander bombing. "Sometimes I thought, ‘I'll have to beg for pardon for my crimes one day'," said Rekarte in an exclusive TV3 interview.
Other witnesses are: Txema Urkijo; Iñaki García's mother; Concha Arrizabalaga; Rekarte's wife; Mónica García de Paredes.