MADRID: A Spanish court freed a serial rapist 17 years into his 30-year sentence under a European human rights ruling that also benefits terrorism convicts, officials said Friday.
Antonio Garcia Carbonell, 76, became the first non-terrorism convict to benefit from the ruling, which has angered Spanish authorities.
The European decision overturned a Spanish judicial doctrine that retroactively cut remission earned through prison work, mostly for jailed members of the armed Basque group ETA.
An official in the Catalonia regional courts service told AFP on Friday that a Barcelona court had ordered Garcia's release the previous day. Media reported he had walked free almost immediately.
Garcia was convicted in 1996 at two trials of a string of rapes, robberies and abductions and sentenced to a total of 268 years in jail, of which he was ordered to serve a legal maximum of 30 years.
In a written ruling ordering his release on Thursday, the Barcelona court upheld an appeal by Garcia's lawyers on the grounds of Monday's decision by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in a separate case.
"The penal liability to which Antonio Garcia Carbonell was sentenced is extinguished... and consequently the convict's liberty is decreed," the Barcelona court said.
The European court said Monday that Spain had wrongly extended the sentence of Ines del Rio Prada, a 55-year-old woman jailed for a series of violent ETA attacks.
It said Spain breached European rights law by cutting the years of remission she earned for prison work.
Spanish courts had also applied this practice, known as the Parot Doctrine, to Garcia, who would otherwise have been due for early release in 2011.
"This convict is in a comparable situation to the appellant in the Rio Prada case," so the Strasbourg court's ruling is "binding" in his case, the Barcelona court said.
The ruling in Strasbourg outraged the families of people killed by ETA in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent Basque homeland.
Dozens of imprisoned ETA members have demanded their freedom since the ruling and Spain's interior ministry said it could also see several other rapists and murderers released.