A Spanish woman is interrogated by the police. EFE
Some 2,400 Spanish nationals are currently behind bars in 63 countries, 83 per cent of them for crimes related to using or trafficking drugs, although the majority of cases involve possession of small quantities of illegal substances.
Spanish citizens in foreign prisons have the right to certain benefits. Depending on the country they are in and whether or not there is a bilateral agreement with that country, they may be able to apply for a transfer to a Spanish prison. This process, however, can take up to 18 months and the country in question could impose other requirements, such as the payment of large sums of money. At present 147 prisoners have had their transfer applications approved and are awaiting repatriation and the government is studying another 181 applications.
For prisoners suffering extreme conditions, the Spanish consulate can provide up to 120 euros a month to cover basic needs, such as food. In African countries for example it is not unusual for a prisoner’s diet to be limited to a single bowl of soup. In 2011 some 1,019,264 euros was provided to inmates. It is also possible to ask Spain to provide medication or finance major operations or childbirth.
Movement for peace
In 2011, the NGO ‘Movimiento por la Paz’ took over the supervision of Spaniards imprisoned in foreign countries. Currently in contact with 456 prisoners, the organisation offers advice to inmates and their families wihout any “moral judgement”, sending out books and magazines and monitoring their health, explains representative María José Moreno.
As far as conditions are concerned Moreno refers to the strict confidentiality of each case, although she describes cells without mattresses or minimum hygiene conditions, as well as a deficient diet and lack of medication.
The Ombudsman (Defensor del Pueblo) also gets involved in cases concerning Spaniards in foreign jails, related the situation of one inmate in a Panama prison for drugs trafficking. He had been called to appear before a judge six times but had been unable to go as he did not have enough money to pay the prison guards to let him out.
There is currently only one Spaniard who has been sentenced to death. Pablo Íbar has been in a Florida jail since 1994 having been found guilty of the murders of a nightclub owner and two models. After 12 years on death row a judge has put off his decision to ratify or annul the death sentence. His lawyer is calling for fingerprint analysis as those found at the scene of the crime were not his client’s. The only evidence that links him to the crime is video footage in which one of the alleged killers removes his hood. The prosecutor maintains that the individual is Íbar.