Lawyer Magda Oranich witnessed the shooting of Juan Paredes (Txiki) in September, 1975. Had he not been sentenced to death, he would have been 59 years old on the 20th of February.
Between 1935 and 1975 Spain was under the rule of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. During this time, women had “no rights” and those not in favour of the government’s beliefs were “severely punished”.
Lawyer Magda Oranich was a key player at this time, defending the role of women and assisting hundreds of political prisoners, both in the public court (court of political repression) and in military courts.
For those “fortunately” not alive during this period, it was a time where the world was divided into two blocs – the US and the Soviet Union. At this time, the 1953 Defence Treaty was signed with the US, which forced Franco to “soften his policies”.
In order to control political violence under the letter of the law, the Public Order Court (TOP – using the Spanish acronym) was established in 1963, a judicial authority with powers to repress any acts viewed as “political crimes”, which dealt with hundreds of Spanish people.
Thus the military’s jurisdiction was confined to crimes of terrorism, and the death sentence was set by the court martial.
It was this political instrument that led to the execution of anarchists Francisco Granados Data and Joaquín Delgado Martínez on August 18th, 1963. They were accused of placing explosive devices in the Passport Section of the General Directorate of Security and the National Trade Union Delegation.
In her capacity as a lawyer, Oranich denounced the trial as a sham, since the assigned counsel had no law degree, no statements were checked, no witnesses were acknowledged and no evidence was accepted.
They openly expressed their regret that the Franco dictatorship not only resulted in the loss of two innocent lives, but also that the attack did not fulfil its original mission: to assassinate Franco. With a heavy heart for the blood shed by the Franco regime they pronounced: “What we would have been spared had it all gone to plan…”
After the event which could have changed the course of Spain’s history, Magda Oranich jumps to March, 1974, the date Salvador Puig Antich was convicted as guilty by a military tribunal for the death of a policeman.
Lowering her voice, she declared that the executioner killed him by garrotte.
The Latest Victim
This legal system continued until 1975, when the Franco regime was weakened whilst the quality of life in Spain was improved by European economic prosperity.
However, this weakened position did not diminish Francisco Franco’s ferocity; he continued to use the justice system to spread terror among the population and to demonstrate his authority.
On the 27th of September, five people were shot: Ángel Otaegui, Juan Paredes Manot (Txiki) and the FRAP (Anti-Fascist and Revolutionary Patriotic Front) militants, José Humberto Baena, José Luis Sánchez Bravo and Ramón García Sanz.
Magda Oranich reports that the military arrived at the Txiki home in the early hours of the morning accusing him of murder. At the time he was told to prepare a defence case, with his lawyers, Oranich and Marc Palmés.
The dictator received numerous pleas for clemency in the hours preceding the sentencing, including ones from Pope Paul VI, but they made no difference. “Franco is sleeping and he is not to be disturbed,” was the response the pontiff received.
Both lawyers knew they didn’t stand a chance, so they focused their case on trying to avoid death by garrotte. They asked that Txiki be granted the possibility of dying as he always wanted: as a Basque soldier.
Franco’s stance was adamant until circumstances forced him to yield. “A lack of specialised executioners prevented the use of the garrotte for five simultaneous executions, so Txiki was killed by firing squad.”
He, along with his lawyers and brother Mikel, was taken to a clearing in a forest in Cerdanyola (Barcelona). At 8.30pm, six members of the Guardia Civil’s Information Service, who were dressed in green and wore tricorn hats, slowly fired two rounds each, savouring the pleasure in the act and their ability to prolong the victim’s agony.
Despite the number of years that have passed, the lawyer has reported that the young man was tied to a tripod by his hands and feet, and died singing “Eusko Gudariak”, a Basque anthem.
With great regret, she speculates that if the arrest had occurred just a few weeks later “Txiki would have been saved,” as Franco was very ill and died not long after, on the 20th November, 1975.
Even after 35 years, his links to ETA are still being investigated. “In my role as his lawyer I never asked him if he belonged to ETA, but there was never any proof.”
Magda, the current secretary of the Catalan Committee for Refugees, working in conjunction with the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees), retains a spirit of protest and is involved in causes relating to human and animal rights, as well as those relating to politics.
This is why, despite following current affairs, she speaks cautiously about the corruption scandal which has rocked the Popular Party. “As a lawyer, and in light of Barcenas’ role, I have to be very careful when it comes to blaming someone who is not then punished.”
Spain’s outlook also seems very “uncertain” because “the latest polls say that the Popular Party would win the election, although they are losing plenty of votes”, so “the political balance would be complicated.”
Openly declaring herself a “supporter of independence”, she has not ruled out the possibility of Catalonia as an independent nation. “I think if there was a referendum on independence then the yes vote would win, but I don’t see any way of doing it.” She specifies: “we must first discuss our right to decide whether or not we have the right to vote.”
(Translated by Marie-Thérèse Slorach – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)