Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Lack of courtesy by Police, says Spanish Foreign Ministry

Caruana frontier incident • Policia Nacional union challenges complaint

The Spanish Foreign Ministry (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores MAE) has described the Chief Minister’s frontier incident last week as “regrettable” and the attitude of the Policia Nacional officers toward Mr Caruana, as “a lack of courtesy”. According to a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman, the matter is being treated as a minor misunderstanding which is “of no great importance.” Mr Caruana declared that he had been offended because the Spanish policeman had asked for his passport after he was recognised as the Chief Minister of Gibraltar. The Spanish regional press was inundated with reports and commentaries at the weekend describing the incident.

Meanwhile Spanish PSOE MP Salvador de la Encina Ortega has declared that what happened “cannot even be described as an incident because the policeman was doing his job, and if this has upset him [Mr Caruana], we have apologised even if we did not have to, because we don’t want something like this to interfere with the tripartite forum for dialogue.”

Sr De la Encina added that “the King of Spain had to show his identity card in the last elections because no matter how well known people are, they must understand that the police ask for these documents.”

But yesterday the Spanish police union the Union Federal de Policia told the Chronicle in a statement that they wished to put forward “the exact story” of events last Thursday.

“At around 12 noon a black Volkswagen Passat with tinted windows came up to the frontier post with four occupants. As is normal the officer asked for documentation asking the driver to produce these. This took place with no verbal exchange, that is to say no one said that Mr Caruana was inside the vehicle.

Once we had the documentation we took these documents to the cabin to have these verified by the relevant person who was in the cabin. This second person on seeing the documentation related to the Chief Minister of the Gibraltarian colony handed them back to his colleague to open the way for the vehicle to proceed with its journey.

It has to be said that the documents were returned before any check was made on the computer system. If this had been done the check would have been recorded as with all other at the main office. It was at the moment of returning the documents when one of the occupants of the vehicle alighted to announce that they were not proceeding with the journey, a move that they carried out with no problem.”

Police union goes on to state that it is “unnecessary to say” that it is untrue that the police asked for the car documents or that there was any kind of malice because this was the said Gibraltar authority as has been claimed in some media.” The union says that what is true is that the Policia Nacional are under no obligation to recognise the authorities of another country nor even that they even should know each and every mayor, judge, delegate, national or regional dignitary who as a result of their office should have some special consideration in certain circumstances.

They add that it is indubitable that any officer at the frontier should observe basic courtesy that is reciprocated between neighbours and obviously their authorities even though there is no obligation to do so.

“This has always been the case in the presence of the Chief Minister whether we have had a notification from the Gibraltar authorities – this did not happen in this case – or because it has been obvious when he is travelling in the G1 Jaguar; which was not the case on this occasion.”

“This organisation is convinced that the two police officers implicated in this grotesque incident did not act with malice nor clearly as part of some preconceived plan", says the union, adding that it believes they acted professionally from a policing perspective.

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