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Three Policemen Convicted In Torture and Disappearance Of Robbery Suspect

September 7, 1988

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A three-judge panel convicted three police officers on Wednesday in the torture and forced disappearance of a robbery suspect and sentenced them to 29 years each in prison.

Four other officers were acquitted of charges of torture and forgery of official documents.

Salvador Dominguez, head of the Audiencia Territorial of the Madrid court, read the unanimous decision to a court packed with journalists after a four- month trial and an additional 39 days of deliberation.

The trial began in April and was viewed by political observers as an indictment of the failure of Socialist Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez’s government to curb abuses by the national police. Many of the senior police officials entered service during the 1936-75 rule of Gen. Francisco Franco.

The government issued no statement after the verdict.

Dominguez said the court found the three officers guilty of illegal detention, torture and forced disappearance of Santiago Corella and forgery of official documents.

The three, arrested two years ago, are Francisco Javier Fernandez Alvarez, 45, former chief of the national police’s anti-robbery brigade in Madrid, Inspector Victoriano Gutierrez Lobo, 42, and Inspector Francisco Aguilar Gonzalez, 41.

The 29-year-old Corella had a record of previous arrests when he was picked up as a suspect in a jewelry store robbery on Nov. 12, 1983.

Prosecutors said the three policemen tortured Corella physically and mentally in a Madrid police station to such an extent that they decided to dispose of him - ″make him disappear.″

They said the officers forged police registers to cover themselves.

The defendants said Corella escaped the day of his arrest after they took him to a field outside Madrid to question him about an arms cache.

Corella’s body was never found.

Defense lawyer Manuel Tuero told reporters the defense ″will exhaust all appeals.″

The court ordered each of the three convicted men or the state to pay $40,600 to Corella’s wife and each of his two children.

Witnesses testified that the officers set up jewelry store robberies from which they split the take.

The three also were indicted in at least two different cases of police corruption and await trial on those charges.

The officers remain in preventive custody in a special prison unit in the northern Rioja region.

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