8 Apr, 2023 @ 15:00
1 min read

You’re free! Drug trafficker released from Malaga jail with less than year on sentence remaining in Semana Santa tradition

Holy Week Procession In Malaga, Spain 5 Mar 2023
Members of the Spanish paratrooper brigade from the Spanish army are seen carrying a statue of Christ as they take part in a procession during Holy Week celebrations. Thousands of people celebrate Holy Week waiting to see the brotherhoods and Easter processions in the streets of the city. Holy Week in Andalusia, which brings together thousands of devotees and faithful, is considered one of the most important religious and cultural celebrations in the region. (Photo by Jesus Merida / SOPA Images/Sipa USA) *** Local Caption *** 45524943

A DRUG trafficker has won this year’s lucky dip as Malaga continues its generous tradition of freeing a prisoner at Semana Santa.

Antonio Daniel, who had still had ten months to run on his sentence in home detention, was officially freed with a wave of Father Jesus El Rico’s hand.

As part of the tradition, the prisoner, cloaked in a spooky black robe, took to the podium just as the cathedral clock struck 8pm on Wednesday to read out the historic mandate of freedom. 

Daniel was originally jailed in September 2021 for two and a half years. He was chosen as he was not in jail for a violent crime and had ‘demonstrated a commitment to rehabilitation and has shown remorse for his actions.’

The Trinidad man now joins the El Rico de Malaga brotherhood. El Rico, real name Jose Maria Fernandez, is a central figure in Malaga’s Semana Santa tradition.

This pardon, which dates back to Carlos III’s dictation in 1759, is a significant part of the Semana Santa tradition in Malaga.

The tradition began when a plague epidemic in Malaga forced the suspension of Semana Santa processions. 

The inmates of the Malaga prison had asked the warden to remove El Rico themselves, but they were denied and, for this reason, they rioted, escaped and they charged through the city’s streets. 

The prisoners returned to jail, and days later the epidemic ended, which was considered a miracle by Carlos III, who then granted the privilege of a pardon.

In Malaga’s Semana Santa tradition, there is no formal process to select the prisoner who is released. Instead, the decision is made by the Brotherhood of Our Father Jesus ‘El Rico’, the organisation responsible for organising the procession.

The Brotherhood work with the prison authorities to identify a suitable candidate and then present their case to the local authorities, who make the final decision.

The selected prisoner is then released from jail for a period of time to take part in the Semana Santa procession. They are dressed in traditional clothing and walk alongside the statue of El Rico.

The hope is that this experience will inspire them to continue on the path of rehabilitation and become a productive member of society.

Not all Semana Santa processions in Spain have a tradition of releasing a prisoner, and the El Rico tradition in Malaga is unique to this city.


Walter Finch

Walter - or Walt to most people - is a former and sometimes still photographer and filmmaker who likes to dig under the surface.
A NCTJ-trained journalist, he came to the Costa del Sol - Gibraltar hotspot from the Daily Mail in 2022 to report on organised crime, corruption, financial fraud and a little bit of whatever is going on.
Got a story? [email protected]

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