The Catalan police have arrested an individual who was allegedly plotting to assassinate Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez over the latter’s plans to exhume the body of former dictator Francisco Franco from the controversial Valley of the Fallen monument, northwest of Madrid.
The suspect, who works as a private security guard and is an expert shooter, made threats against Sánchez in messages he posted in a Whatsapp chat group, the online daily Público reported.
The suspect regularly participates in shooting competitions
He was arrested three weeks ago after one of the chat members alerted the authorities about his plans. Police officers found a trove of weapons inside his home in Terrassa (Barcelona), including several that he had illegally modified himself.
Although he has no prior criminal record, M.M., 63, has a gun license on account of his job and he is a top marksman who regularly participates in shooting competitions, the online daily reported. This fact made him particularly dangerous in the eyes of the police, who believe him capable of carrying out his plans.
A spokesman for the High Court of Catalonia has confirmed that the suspect is being held without bail. He has been charged with conspiring to attack an official, issuing serious threats, possession of illegal weapons, and one count of hate crimes in connection with his defense of Franco.
Spain’s central high court, the Audiencia Nacional, rejected the case on the basis that it does not constitute terrorism. A court in Terrassa is now conducting the criminal inquiry.
Sánchez, of the Socialist Party (PSOE), came to power in June after leading a successful no-confidence vote against the Popular Party (PP)’s Mariano Rajoy, and he made the plan to exhume Franco from the Valley of the Fallen monument one of his star policies immediately after taking office.
But Franco’s family, which opposes the move, retaliated by announcing that they would take his remains to the family’s crypt inside La Almudena cathedral, a landmark building in the center of Madrid that attracts thousands of visitors.
The government is now racing to enact a legal reform to stop the Cathedral from becoming a pilgrimage site for Franco supporters. If the reform is approved, the government would be able to shut down all public spaces that exalt the dictator – including churches.
English version by Susana Urra.