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27 September 1975: Spain's final deaths by capital punishment

Remembrance event for Txiki and Otaegi in Zarautz in 2018.
Remembrance event for Txiki and Otaegi in Zarautz in 2018. / SUR
  • Two ETA members and three FRAP militants were executed, provoking widespread criticism of Spain across Europe

On 27 September 1975, Spain used capital punishment for the final time, carrying out five executions which triggered a tsunami of anti-Spain criticism and revolt across Europe.

ETA members Juan Paredes Manotas, 21, known as Txiki, and Ángel Otaegi Etxeberria, 33, were executed in Barcelona and Burgos respectively for their convicted killings of a police and Guardia Civil officer.

In Hoyo de Manzanares, three FRAP militants, Ramón García Sanz, 27, José Luis Sánchez-Bravo, 21, and José Humberto Baena Alonso, 24, were shot for similar crimes.

The executions have since been linked to Spain's so-called 'White Terror' movement, after Franco brought back use of the death penalty in 1938. European animosity towards Spain was already intense in 1975 due to Franco's Nazi sympathies, and the September executions did nothing to calm the storm.

An eruption of international outcry followed the September 1975 executions, which had, in fact, gone against an appeal for clemency by the Pope. The ambassadors of fifteen European countries, including the UK, withdrew themselves from office; fire-bombs attacked the Spanish embassy in Brussels; the Spanish consulate in Porto, Portugal, was completely ransacked; and headlines of "Vandalismo antiespañol" ("Anti-Spanish vandalism") were splashed across SUR's front page. The Swedish prime minister's condemnation of the "devilish murderers" was particularly damning.

Fears of further executions were quashed, however, when Franco fell ill in October 1975 and died the following month, heralding the de facto abolition of capital punishment and ensuring that the executions of September 1975 were the last to occur in Spain.

The 1978 Spanish Constitution proceeded to prohibit the penalty in all cases except those of authorised military executions in wartime. In 1995, capital punishment was stamped out altogether.

The abolition of capital punishment in Spain facilitated investigation into the circumstances surrounding these final executions. In November 2012, a Basque Government commission ruled Txiki and Otaegi's rights to a fair trial to have been violated, and their family members received 135,000 euros in compensation as a result.

Controversy remains rife, however, as Spain continues to refuse the Argentinian demand for the extradition of 20 Francoists, including those involved in the executions of September 1975.