Girish Mahajan

Capital punishment in Spain

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Capital punishment in Spain

The 1978 Spanish Constitution bans capital punishment in Spain. Spain completely abolished capital punishment for all offenses, including during wartime conditions, in October 1995.


The last executions were carried out on September 27, 1975 when five members of ETA and Revolutionary Antifascist Patriotic Front (FRAP) were executed by firing squad for murder following a much-publicised trial in which a number of the convicted (including a pregnant woman) were given clemency by General Francisco Franco, and the sentences of the remaining five, due to the unavailability of executioners versed in the use of the garrote, were carried out by shooting. The garotte had been portrayed as a draconian act by the publicity after its last use in 1974, when Salvador Puig Antich was executed in Barcelona and Heinz Chez in Tarragona.


Capital punishment was common in the Spanish kingdom, and methods used included decapitation (especially for nobility). In 1820 Ferdinand VII replaced all other methods with the garrote, which was used mainly since then, including for the liberal freedom fighter Mariana de Pineda Muñoz and the assassin of six-time Prime Minister of Spain Antonio Cánovas del Castillo. According to a pamphlet published anonymously by Crown Prince Oscar Bernadotte, Spain was the most frequent executioner of the Western world in the early 1800s, followed by his native Sweden. The penalty was abolished by the Second Spanish Republic in 1932 but restored two years later in the midst of social and political turmoil for a few major offences, not including murder.

Francoist Spain

Capital punishment in Francoist Spain was restored fully on decree in 1938. From 1940 to 1975, 165 judicial executions are reported to have been carried out, although precise numbers from the years following the Spanish Civil War are vague. Among the most relevant executed from this period there is Lluís Companys, President of the Generalitat of Catalonia.

As Franco's regime was consolidated, use of the death penalty became more scarce; between 1950 and 1959 some 58 Spaniards (including two women) were executed by garrote and nine by firing squad. In the 1960s, the total number of executions dropped to six; two in 1960, two in 1963 and two in 1966 (less than in neighbouring France, although several of the convictions were considered political). Due to criticism, a six-year stay followed, broken when Pedro Martínez Exposito was shot in 1972 for homicide and robbery. The next executions, of Salvador Puig Antich and Heinz Chez in 1974, were allegedly held on the same day to deliberately confuse public sentiments and equalize the execution of a political opponent - both were convicted of killing Guardia Civil members - with that of a common murderer. The last five death sentences were carried out simultaneously in Madrid, Barcelona and Burgos on September 27, 1975, prompting Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme - amongst other harsh condemnations - to denounce the regime as "devilish murderers" the following day.

The imposition of the death penalty for terrorism followed its own logic during Franco's dictatorship. Sometimes it was not swiftly carried out, such as in the case of Andrés Ruiz Márquez (Coronel Montenegro), a member of a Spanish National Liberation Front (FELN) commando who had set up a string of small bombs in Madrid. He was arrested by the Spanish police in 1964 and condemned to death but saw his sentence commuted to life in prison.


Capital punishment in Spain Wikipedia

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