The European Court of Human Rights has found in favour of Arnaldo Otegi and four other plaintiffs, saying that Spain's National Audience violated their right to a fair trial.
The Strasbourg court has today released its verdict that the Spanish court violated article 6.1 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to a fair trial when they were tried and sent to prison in the so-called Bateragune case, accused of being members of ETA.
The five plaintiffs argued that the National Audience judges in their case weren't impartial. The verdict, however, comes after they have all completed their sentences and been released. Otegi was sentenced in September 2011 to 10 years in prison; on 9th May 2012, that was reduced to 6 and a half years.
The case, taken to Europe by Otegi's defence, sought to clarify whether the actions of judge Ángela Murillo in the original trial violated their basic rights. The defence claimed that her impartiality was affected by prejudice she had shown towards him in a previous case.
Specifically, they noting that, during a previous case, Murillo asked Otegi if he would condemn ETA's terrorist actions. When he refused to answer, the judge said "I already knew you wouldn't answer that question". Spain's Supreme Court ruled at the time that doubts as to the judge's impartiality were "objectively justified". It then declared the original sentence void. The retrial acquitted him of the charge of glorification of terrorism he had originally been sentenced to prison for.
Similarly, his defence had denounced the alleged bias of the court's presiding judge, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos, for his membership of the Partido Popular and judge Antonio Narváez, who was the prosecutor who headed the process leading to Batasuna, a far-left Basque nationalist party led by Otegi, being declared illegal. The court had decided those allegations were inadmissible.