Terra Lliure (Eastern Catalan: [ˈtɛrə ˈʎiwɾə], Western Catalan: [ˈtɛra ˈʎiwɾe] "Free Land"), sometimes referred to as TLL, was an armed Catalan nationalist and left-wing separatist organisation. Formed in 1978, with the goal of establishing an independent Marxist state in the Catalan Countries, the group carried out dozens of attacks that left many people injured and one person dead.
Terra Lliure, which was proscribed as a terrorist organization by the Spanish authorities, became known to public with a manifest in a mass meeting at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona in 1981. An important police raid in 1991 and the renunciation of violence by some of the group members led to the dissolution of Terra Lliure in 1995. After disbanding, many members joined the political party Republican Left of Catalonia.
After Francisco Franco's death in 1975, Spain began its transition to democracy. Under Franco's rule the Catalan language had been banned, the culture suppressed, institutions abolished and people imprisoned for their political beliefs. In 1977, the president of Catalonia in exile went back to Catalonia and the Generalitat of Catalonia was restored. Following the approval of the Spanish constitution in 1978, a Statute of Autonomy was promulgated and approved in referendum. Catalonia was organized as an Autonomous Community.
Not satisfied with that level of autonomy, some organizations started to demand the full independence of Catalonia. The demand for an independent Catalonia had been present since the beginning of the 20th century but after the end of the dictatorship, it gained more support among the Catalan society. This would lead to some people to use violence to achieve that goal.
Most of Terra Lliure's original members converged into the group around 1980, arriving from other armed organizations such as the Popular Catalan Army (EPOCA), the Catalan Liberation Front (FAC) or political organizations such as the Socialist Party of National Liberation (PSAN) and Catalan Countries' Independentists. In 1979, Terra Lliure started its armed activities and two of its members died that year, one in a shootout with Civil Guard members and another one blew up himself.
In May 1981, Terra Lliure kidnapped journalist Federico Jiménez Losantos, shot him in the leg and set him free. He was targeted due to signing and promoting a manifesto commenting on the Catalan nationalist menace to Spanish language in Catalonia. In June, the group published its first statement, called Free Land Calling, in a mass meeting at the Camp Nou stadium.
In 1982, Terra Lliure held its first assembly, while it continued its armed campaign against Spanish and French interests, bank offices and other administrations. A second assembly was held in 1984 and the group started publishing official statements and claimed actions that they carried out through the Alerta magazine. In 1985 and 1985, two more members died while carrying explosive devices.
Between 1984 and 1989 some of Terra Lliure's leaders were arrested, nevertheless the group maintained its structure and capacities and a parallel political movement was developing, the Solidarity Committee with the Catalan Patriots (CSPC) and the Movement for the Defense of the Land (MDT). In 1987, the group committed its only killing, with a bomb attack in Les Borges Blanques, Lleida. Terra Lliure admitted the killing was an error. The group also committed several attacks, mainly against American interests, together with the Catalan Red Liberation Army. In 1988, Terra Lliure held its third assembly and developed three documents to describe the theoretical framework and analyze the social reality of the Catalan National Liberation Movement.
In July 1991, Terra Lliure announced it was declaring a ceasefire and that some of its members would start joining Republican Left of Catalonia. Despite that, some cells kept carrying out attacks, especially due to the proximity to the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992. Also in 1991, a former member of Terra Lliure, who had joined ETA, was killed in a police raid after a bomb attack in Vic, Barcelona.
In July 1992, under an order of judge Baltasar Garzón, police arrested around 40 of members of the group. Years later, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the Spanish government to compensate some of the arrested people for failing to investigate allegations of torture during the raid. The following years, the group did not commit any attack and announced its dissolution on the 1995 National Day of Catalonia.
- July 25, 1980: First attacks claimed by Terra Lliure, with two bomb explosions in Fecsa-Endesa offices in Barcelona and Calella.
- "TV3 s'atreveix amb la història de Terra Lliure". ee-noticies.com (in Catalan). 2007. Retrieved 2010-10-23.
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- "22è Aniversari de la mort de Quim Sànchez". llibertat.cat (in Catalan). December 15, 2007. Retrieved 2010-10-23.
- "25è Aniversari de la mort de Toni Villaescusa". llibertat.cat (in Catalan). July 19, 2009. Retrieved 2010-10-23.
- "American Sailor Dies in Barcelona After U.S.O. Blast That Hurt 10". nytimes.com. December 28, 1987. Retrieved 2010-10-23.
- "Los terroristas fueron descubiertos al cometer una cadena de 'errores de aprendiz'". elpais.com (in Spanish). June 1, 1991. Retrieved 2010-10-23.
- "Los principales dirigentes históricos de Terra Lliure han abandonado la organización terrorista". elpais.com (in Spanish). November 19, 1985. Retrieved 2010-10-23.
- "Garzón, un jutge contra les cordes". elpunt.cat (in Catalan). February 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-23.