Spain had a seemingly simple request for Morocco’s king: Pardon 18 Spaniards convicted in his country, and let 30 others return to Spain to serve out their prison terms. Instead, the monarch pardoned 48 Spanish prisoners, including a man convicted of raping children.
The apparent bureaucratic mix-up has embarrassed both nations, prompting rare protests in Morocco and an ultimately successful scramble to find the freed pedophile. It has also raised legal questions about the fate of the other 29 Spaniards believed incorrectly pardoned.
Police captured 63-year-old convicted pedophile Daniel Galvan Vina in southeastern Spain on Monday after he had nearly a week of freedom. Galvan had been convicted of raping 11 children and was serving a 30-year sentence in Morocco before the pardon came through.
Morocco’s King Mohammad VI retracted his pardon of Galvan over the weekend, and Morocco, via Interpol, issued an international arrest warrant for him. Because Spain does not extradite its citizens to Morocco, Galvan will likely finish his term in a Spanish prison.
A Spanish Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said some of the 48 are believed to be back in Spain and others are still in Morocco. Most were reportedly serving time for drug-related offenses, and there was no word from Morocco that any more pardons would be rescinded.
The requests for pardons and prison transfers came during Spanish King Juan Carlos’s four-day official visit to Morocco last month, and Morocco’s consent was viewed as a gesture that would benefit bilateral relations.
A Spanish official confirmed that Spain asked Morocco to transfer 30 convicts to prisons in Spain while requesting that a separate list of 18 prisoners be pardoned and freed. But Moroccan authorities apparently put the two lists together and pardoned all 48, the official said.
The Spanish official and other officials in Spain who spoke to The Associated Press on Monday requested anonymity because government regulations do not allow them to be quoted by name.
Galvan’s lawyer, Mahamed Benjedou, told The Associated Press that his client had been convicted in 2011. His release infuriated many Moroccans. On Friday night, hundreds demonstrated against the pardon, a very rare public show of displeasure with their king.
The demonstrators in Rabat shouted: “Our children are raped. Where is the law?” and “Shame!” Police used clubs break up the protest, leaving several dozen people injured, many with head wounds.
By Sunday, Mohammad VI was insisting he had not known the severity of Galvan’s crimes, and later that day the king announced he’d revoked the pardon and ordered an investigation into what happened.
The Moroccan royal office, in a statement carried by the country’s state news agency, announced Monday that a probe into Galvan’s pardon concluded that it resulted from failures in the prison administration, which “inadvertently passed on erroneous information.”
The statement said that the prison services director, Hafid Benhachem, had been fired. But the statement did not refer to the dozens of other Spanish prisoners apparently incorrectly pardoned.
Spanish officials did not say why they sought pardons and transfers for the prisoners, though such requests are often for humanitarian reasons. Spanish media reports said most of the convicts were doing time for drug-related offenses.
Morocco’s justice minister will meet with his Spanish counterpart in Madrid on Tuesday to discuss how to undo the damage, a Moroccan government statement said.
Meanwhile, Spain’s main opposition Socialist Party demanded that the government provide a full explanation of how the apparent misunderstanding came about. The government did not immediately react to that demand.
A spokesman for Spain’s Interior Ministry said Monday that police, acting on the international warrant, arrested Galvan in the southeastern city of Murcia and that he will be brought before the National Court in Madrid. The spokesman gave no other details.
The president of Murcia University told Spanish media that Galvan was there as a scholar from 1996 to 1998 and had a work contract from 1998 to 2002, when he was involved with the International Relations Department.
Jose Antonio Cobacho said Galvan was fluent in Arabic and other languages, according to Europa Press. He lived in nearby Torrevieja.
The university president added that Galvan’s work at the institution “was absolutely normal and he carried out his work satisfactorily,” according to Europa Press. He said he did not personally know Galvan.