“They tortured me at the Via Laietana police station, and it was like entering a bottomless pit”

by Deborah Cater
Via Laietana Police HQ the epicentre of torture in Franco era
del canto chambers 2

In an article published by El Diario, which we have translated into English, the Secretary of State for Security, Rafael Pérez Ruiz talks about his experiences at the Via Laietana police station in Barcelona.

Ruiz proclaims the Via Laietana police station as “a symbol of public service from which several generations of police have contributed and continue to contribute to strengthening democracy in our country”. However, it has deeply wounded those of us who, as in my case, were tortured for twenty days in these dependencies, precisely for fighting for democracy and against the dictatorship.

“For the people of Barcelona, ​​the Via Laietana police station continues to be a black hole in our collective memory, since during 40 years there the democrats who faced the dictatorship were systematically tortured there. Some died as a result of torture and others suffered the consequences for the rest of their lives, as is the case of the leaders of the PSUC Miguel Núñez and Sebastià Piera, among many others.

A black hole in the collective memory

Even today, many people from Barcelona try to avoid passing in front of the Police Headquarters of Via Laietana so as not to relive the trauma suffered in their premises. There are many truncated lives of men and women who have suffered in silence the pain and trauma of torture that no one attended to. For this reason, there are few of us who are willing to talk about such a terrible experience.

In 1969, at the age of 19, I joined the SEAT company and got involved in the organisation of the Comisiones Obreras union. But what is now a constitutional right was then a crime. The company reported me to the police, who detained me at dawn on December 16, 1970, at the door of my house on my way to work.

From that moment a terrible nightmare began. There were 20 days of torture in the Via Laietana premises. The state of emergency had been declared to suppress the mobilisation of workers and students against the death sentences of six ETA Político Militar militants; the police had no time limit for interrogation and torture in police stations.

Cumbre Villas

Twenty days of torture

Twenty days of isolation in the stinking basements of Via Laietana, without any contact with the outside, neither with the family nor with the lawyers; losing track of time in their dark cells, of which every two or three hours, day and night. They took me up to the offices for interrogation and torture. Tortures of all kinds: beatings, threats to shoot me, the operating room, the wheel, the bathtub … And all kinds of humiliations, alternated with the intervention of the good policeman who tried to convince you to expose your companions in order to come out on the right foot.

It was like entering a bottomless pit, isolated and defenseless at the mercy of the torturers, where the possibility of being in their hands indefinitely was the worst torture. So much so that going to jail was a liberation for me.

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Places of torture become places of remembrance

As long as the Prefecture of Via Laietana is the Superior Police Headquarters of Barcelona, ​​the shadow of its Francoist past will continue to be projected on it.

In other democratic countries, places of repression, such as the ESMA in Buenos Aires or the headquarters of the Gestapo in Lyon, have been transformed into spaces of memory.

Thus, for our democratic culture it is a duty of memory to transform the Prefecture of Via Laietana into an interpretation centre of the repression of the dictatorship. To remember those who fought against the Franco regime, and denounce torture always and in every place.”

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