A judge in the North of Ireland has ruled that a former member of the Basque group ETA should be extradited from his home in West Belfast and returned to Spain to face accusations that he glorified terrorism.
Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos was released from a Spanish prison in 2008 after serving over 21 years for his involvement with the Basque separatist group ETA. However in the same year as his release, the Spanish authorities issued an international arrest warrant against Juana Chaos for a letter he had written while in jail.
If returned to Spain Mr de Juana Chaos faces further imprisonment with his defence lawyer telling the courts in Belfast last week that if returned to jail he faces harsher penalties for his political beliefs. Mr de Juana Chaos has stated that whilst in jail he was tortured, repeatedly beaten and remained in solitary confinement for 17 years of his sentence. After the Spanish authorities refused to release de Juana Chaos when his jail term was up, he went on two hunger strikes – one lasting for sixty three days – before his harsh treatment was highlighted internationally by a Times newspaper journalist and photographer and he was released.
According to his lawyer, Mr de Juana Chaos has fragile mental health and a further sentence in a Spanish prison would be detrimental to his future wellbeing. Judge Burgess however said that he had confidence in the Spanish judicial system, because of European Arrest Warrant procedures and that the Spanish authorities would give de Juana Chaos a fair trial. Judge Burgess said that he was sure that the Spanish authorities would not put de Juana Chaos on trial for anything else other than the offence that was included in the warrant. Mr de Juana Chaos had seven days to appeal against the verdict, which was given on 1st March and it is unknown as yet what has been decided.
The charge against Mr de Juana Chaos stems from a letter that he alleges was written while still in jail that was read out at a rally in Donastia/San Sebastian after his release from prison. In the letter Mr de Juana Chaos is alleged to have stated “aurrera bolie” (kick the ball forward), which has been interpreted by the Spanish authorities as `glorifying terrorism’ – a charge that is groundless under UK and Northern Ireland law. The Spanish authorities have been accused by Basque activists of torturing, sexual abusing and even murdering Basque prisoners in their charge. Many of these claims have also been backed up by the United Nations.