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Grupos Antiterroristas de Liberación (GAL, Antiterrorist Liberation Groups) were death squads established illegally by officials of the Spanish government to fight ETA, a Basque separatist group. They were active from 1983 until 1987, under PSOE's cabinets. It was proven by a judicial trial that they were financed by important officials within the Spanishmarker Interior Ministry. The Spanish daily El Mundo played an important role revealing the plot with its series on the matter.


GAL operated mainly in the Basque Country, mostly on the Frenchmarker side of the border, but kidnapping and torture were also performed around Spain. The victims were both members and supporters of ETA, and often people unassociated with terrorism. The GAL were active from 1983 until 1987, committing 27 killings. This period is often referred to as part of "La guerra sucia" (The dirty war) in Spanish history.

The GAL did not have a proper or consistent ideology other than attacking ETA members or ETA-related targets. In this regard, the actual perpetrators were never militants in a political sense but mercenaries, also a few policemen were convicted of involvement (Lasa-Zabala case, in which Guardias Civiles were charged and sentenced [59871], Larraetxea case, etc.).

The kidnapping and later killing of Joxe Antonio Lasa and Joxe Ignacio Zabala in October 1983 and the kidnapping of Segundo Marey in 1983, marked the beginning of the group's activities.

Felipe González, then President of the Government of Spain and leader of the Socialist Party, was suspected of being involved with the GAL as a result of the long series of reports by investigative journalism which the Spanish daily El Mundo and other Spanish media devoted to the matter. It is claimed that, although González probably knew about the GAL, he was not brought to trial in order to avoid the consequent discrediting of Spanish political institutions.

It was also proven during the trials that the policemen recruiting the mercenaries and the government officials involved in organising the dirty war also embezzled large amounts of money from the public funds assigned to the task. Also, payments were made by the PSOE government to the individuals first jailed, in order to buy their silence.

The GAL was one of the main issues of the campaign for the elections of 1996 in which Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) was defeated by José María Aznar's People's Party (PP) for the first time. Felipe González then resigned as leader of the party. With the exception of Ricardo García Damborenea, PSOE leaders have never acknowledged responsibility for the GAL, or have condemned their crimes verbally. González himself (presumed to be 'Mr. X') has never been charged with a GAL offence, but he has called publicly for pardons for his former subordinates. PSOE leaders have campaigned for leniency towards their former colleagues convicted of crimes associated with GAL and the succeeding government of José María Aznar granted some pardons to Socialists convicted of GAL crimes.

After 1987, when the GAL disbanded, the French government adopted a harsher attitude towards Basque refugees, denying political refugee status to new applicants, and facilitating extraditions requested by Spanish judges. This change weakened ETA's veterans. It is believed that the GAL were a major factor in ensuring ETA's survival into the 1990s and beyond, helping to preserve the image of an authoritarian state at war with the Basque people.

Chronology of attacks

Convicted GAL members

The actual attacks were carried by members of the Spanish Policía Nacional or, most frequently, by Portuguese or French mercenaries.

The convicted members of GAL's leadership are:

Similar groups

Members of Batasuna gave the name "Green GAL" to a group of the Guardia Civil (who wear green uniforms) based in the Intxaurrondo barracks at San Sebastiánmarker, because Batasuna allege that they would attack ETA members illegally.

See also


  • Dirty War, Clean Hands -- ETA, the GAL and Spanish Democracy by Paddy Woodworth - ISBN 0-300-09750-6

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