Concern is growing for the human right of an Irish republican who is currently languishing in a Spanish jail cell, under threat of extradition to Germany.
An international arrest warrant issued by German authorities was outstanding in connection with an attack on a British army base in Osnabrueck in 1989. Leonard Hardy denies all charges that he was involved in the incident.
Spain has not yet acknowledged that Mr Hardy, who was arrested at a hotel at a holiday resort last Wednesday, is qualified for release, in any event, under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
As neither Spain nor Germany extradite their own citizens, Mr Hardy’s arrest and detention appear to violate his human rights as a European citizen.
His wife, Donna Hardy (nee Maguire), said her husband’s arrest and detention was wrong. “All European citizens should be entitled to the same protections,” she said.
A former republican prisoner, Mr Hardy has been living openly in the 26 Counties since his release from jail in the mid-90s and regularly travelled abroad on family holidays.
The Belfast man, who now lives across the border in County Louth, was on a summer break with his wife Donna and four children when he was arrested.
He was previously arrested in 1989 and charged with possession of explosives.
After serving five years in prison he was released. Mr Hardy’s then future wife was arrested in the same garda operation and held for seven months in Mountjoy prison in Dublin before being cleared of all charges.
Several months later, she was arrested in Belgium. After a protracted legal process, she was eventually extradited to Germany and sentenced to six years after the authorities claimed she was involved in the Osnabrueck attack.
Mrs Hardy’s legal team believes her experience over a decade ago may well have a direct impact on her husband’s fate now.
“When I was brought to Germany and sentenced they took into account the time I had served in Mountjoy in relation to the Rosslare incident as well as the subsequent time I spent in jail,” said Mrs Hardy.
“They linked the Rosslare incident to the one at Osnabrueck in my case and took that time off my sentence. Our legal team will argue that the same terms apply to Leonard if he is extradited and convicted.”
Pressure is growing on the Dublin government to act on the matter. Mr Hardy’s brother, Basil, has visited his brother in a prison outside Madrid. He said: “They need to be asking for Leonard Hardy to be sent back to Ireland because the Good Friday Agreement is in place.”
He added: “There is no reason to extradite him over something that happened over 16 years ago. He has served five years in jail in Ireland. The Germans should recognise that thsoe five years were served as part of the wider conflict in Ireland before the Good Friday Agreement.”
Mr Hardy also pointed out the attack took place at a British Army base, which is considered British soil.
“If the Germans are saying they don’t want Leonard Hardy, then why are the Germans trying to extradite him?”
German authorities are currently finalising their extradition warrants. It is expected Mr Hardy will apply to the Spanish courts for bail in the coming days.