In August 2000 the Ertzaintza (Regional Police Force) found information about him and his home among documents seized from ETA's Bizkaia Commando. The police assigned him a bodyguard immediately. On November 7, 2001 ETA murdered his colleague José María Lidón. Since then, he has not been able to dispense with the police escort.



Name: Alfonso González-Guija Jiménez.

Age: 51.

Family status: separated. 2 children.

Profession: Senior Magistrate-Judge in Bilbao



- In August 2000 the Ertzaintza (Regional Police Force) found information about him and his home among documents seized from ETA’s Bizkaia Commando. The police assigned him a bodyguard immediately.

- In early 2001, he decided to do without the bodyguard service for personal reasons. He continues to perform his profession as usual.

- On November 7, 2001 ETA murdered his colleague José María Lidón. This attack caused the general deployment of protection services for judges throughout the Basque Country.

- Since then, he has not been able to dispense with the police escort.



“After several years stationed outside the Basque Country, I returned to Bilbao in 1998. At that time there was a truce. I came at the right time”.

“In 1998 I started to work. In 1999, the truce ended, and I had my first experience of a terrorist threat at a personal level. I received a call from the police to attend a meeting where they told me that well documented information had been found following police investigations after the explosion of a car in Bilbao that was full of explosives while it was carrying a group of ETA terrorists from the Bizkaia commando.  This was in the year 2000″.

“They showed me the information they had found. It was quite serious, because the police immediately gave me a police escort”.

“At that time judges were not considered by the police as a risk group. There were few colleagues who had been assigned escort services for different reasons. I was assigned police protection. And I didn’t like it. I led a life of freedom and privacy and all that disappeared.  I suppose, like all other people assigned protection, it changes your life”.

“I disliked it so much that I submitted a formal rejection. I decided to renounce by police escort. That would have been in early 2001. I had had an escort for about 8 months. I stated in the official rejection document that I had no objection to the professionalism of the bodyguards. I made it clear that it was for personal reasons. I didn’t like it, I couldn’t take it. Due to my job, I had 24-hour shifts constantly, just like my colleagues. When on duty I had to go out constantly and unexpectedly. It was a problem to have to give prior notice of my movements. I was a person used to coming and going freely”.

“On the other hand, I lived at home with my family. Among the documents seized from that commando, there was also information on that address. The police told me that the house was “contaminated”. I would never have told my family anything about this, but I had to leave that house. And they found out because there was no choice but to leave”.

On November 7, 2001 ETA murdered out colleague José María Lidón. I didn’t have an escort then. After that, what happened to my group and to me in particular was this: I started to work in the position I have now, the senior judge of Bilbao. Lidón’s murder caused the government to consider all the judges in the Basque Country as a risk group, regardless of whether any documents or evidence of a threat had been found. There was a widespread introduction of protection services. I didn’t have bodyguards then. I had already experienced this situation, which was new for my colleagues. Given my position (Senior Judge of Bilbao), I am the representative of my colleagues and, therefore, I agreed with the police officials, with whom I spoke, to assign protection to all my colleagues, and to worry about me later.  This can’t be organised from one day to the next. We had to resort to private security services. Therefore, I was assigned bodyguards again in March 2002″.

“Since then, my habits changed again. I knew what it was like, I accepted it with resignation, but it made me a little uncomfortable. The freedom I had had before was restricted. Undoubtedly, you warn the bodyguards, but you don’t know whether a friend is going to call you to go out for a coffee on a Sunday afternoon. And you spend all day calling and planning. In the end, the conclusion I reached after all these years, because I can’t go out without the protection, is that I stay at home more and go out less. Before I used to go out more often, more easily. I look for ways of doing things at home, but a time comes when you decide it’s not worthwhile going out with bodyguards. In short, you stop having a social life”.

“As for the feeling of fear, I think fear is very subjective. Really, I’m not afraid when I have protection. Without escorts, I am convinced that if you take self-protective actions and if you are aware of the risks, you can live in peace. Many colleagues have given up their escorts and are quite happy, although your level of protection is obviously better when you are protected by other people”.

“I have experienced the pressure when having to decide on a case involving members of ETA or street violence. People walking, waiting at the door of the court to try to scare you a bit … But I’ve always been able to work in peace, I have been able to handle the pressure. Knowing there are 50 guys waiting for you has never affected my work. Clearly, deciding on the same event in Seville, without all that pressure, is more comfortable, but it has never affected my work”.

“My family, as you can imagine, don’t like it. They have always been concerned whether I have an escort or not. I have the peace of mind that my daughters do not live here, and have not had to suffer all this. Over the years everything becomes normal. The need for an escort service becomes normal. You become resigned to it”.

“This threat has not influenced my professional career. It has been uncomfortable, but I have not been influenced. It would be rather bad if judges were influenced in any way by this because then we would not be administering justice. If anyone in a position of responsibility were afraid or felt affected, they would have to go”.

“Some colleagues, due to the widespread deployment of protection services, applied to be re-assigned to other regions. That was not my case because I have a very clear desire to stay here personally and professionally. I hope to retire here. I really feel I am from Bilbao”.

*Related documents:

El País

El Mundo