Harassment of former Basque prisoner
Harassment of former Basque prisoner

The PSNI police arrested a former political prisoner from the Basque Country this week on foot of a Spanish extradition order which charged him with a kind of sedition.

A Spanish judge issued an international arrest warrant last week for Inaki de Juana Chaos, who was released from prison in Spain in August and failed to appear in court to testify in a case in which he was accused of writing a letter “praising terrorism” -- in support of the pro-independence campaign in the Basque Country.

In Belfast, a lawyer for the Spanish government argued that de Juana Chaos could be extradited on the basis of an equivalent offence in Britain’s new [2006] Terrorism Act, though he admitted it carried only a two-year sentence which might be too short to justify extradition.

Barrister Stephen Ritchie, seeking his extradition, said it was alleged that a woman read out a letter “in de Juana Chaos’s name” at a gathering on the day he was released from prison in August.

“Reference was made, among other issues, to a call to continue with the armed struggle,” Mr Ritchie told Belfast Recorder’s Court.

“That armed struggle being that between the organisation known as ETA and the Kingdom of Spain.”

Lawyers for Mr de Juana Chaos criticised the European arrest warrant issued against him as fundamentally flawed.

Belfast judge Tom Burgess said it was not clear whether the terms in the Spanish warrant, which refer to causing “humiliation” and “intensifying the grief” of victims or their relatives, were equivalent to the British law.

After nearly two decades in prison, Mr de Juana Chaos last year endured a prolonged hunger strike to gain his liberty after the Spanish government tried to lengthen his prison sentence with charges related to articles he wrote for freely available newspapers.

Mr de Juana Chaos arrived in Ireland earlier this year following his release from prison. He intends to stay in Belfast, where he is staying with his wife and is enrolled in a college.

As a part of a current crackdown on Basque nationalists, political parties that demand independence for the Basque Country have been banned by the Spanish state. Popular newspapers have also been targeted and closed and nationalists have been rounded up on trumped-up charges.

eirigi chairperson Brian Leeson said there were “many thousands of republican ex-prisoners the length and breadth of Ireland” who would understand Inaki’s plight.

“This man spent two decades in prison as a result of his participation in the Basque struggle for national independence. On his release, he was immediately threatened with further persecution.

“Given the Spanish state’s hostile attitude towards the Basque independence movement, it is clear that Inaki faces the risk of further imprisonment.

Mr Leeson concluded: “Ireland has a proud history of solidarity and friendship with the Basque Country that stretches back to the republican volunteers who fought there to defeat Franco and fascism.”

Mr de Juana Chaos was released on bail of #5,000 (6,000 Euro).

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© 2008 Irish Republican News