French and Spanish authorities are facing lawsuits after a group of Spanish firefighters was wrongly depicted as suspected ETA terrorists.
Security footage of the five men in a French supermarket were released and widely shown on television.
The men were mistakenly thought to be involved in the killing of a French policeman last week and warrants were issued for their arrest.
Shocked family members contacted the men, who in fact were simply on holiday in France.
“They didn’t treat us as alleged terrorists but as actual terrorists,” said one of the firefighters, Oscar Gonzalez. “That’s the problem. We suffered the accusation of being members of ETA. You can imagine how our families felt and what they thought would happen to us.”
Spanish authorities have admitted making a mistake, and the French too are trying to explain themselves.
The Director General of the French National Police, Frederic Pechenard, said: “The images weren’t perfect, coming from a security camera. We see people with very similar profiles. They’re young, Spanish, some are Basque, some speak Catalan, with the same profile, and this explains the confusion.”
A court later officially cleared the firefighters of any involvement in the killing of a police officer in a shootout near Paris on Tuesday. ETA, the armed Basque separatist group, is suspected of being responsible.