A Belfast judge has approved the extradition of Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos to Spain on the charge of “glorifying terrorism”, even though no homologous offence exists under British law.
The Basque separatist, who served a prison sentence for his involvement in the Basque armed struggle, is being sought by Spain over the contents of a letter read out at a rally in San Sebastian last August.
The message was allegedly read out in his name, with the charge against him apparently hingeing on the Basque phrase ‘aurrera bolie’, which translates as “kick the ball forward”.
He faces the possibility of a two-year jail sentence if convicted on the charge of making statements which “caused humiliation and intensified the grief” of ETA victims and their relatives.
Last year, Spanish authorities issued a European arrest warrant to the PSNI. Mr de Juana Chaos had moved to the North after staying in Dublin for some time.
His legal team pointed out that the warrant issued against him was vague about what was actually said. They also referred to the more fundamental legal flaw that there was no equivalent crime in British law.
Judge Tom Burgess, the Recorder for Belfast, accepted that the expression “kick the ball forward” formed the lynchpin of the Spanish authorities’ case. Part of his decision centred on whether the words could constitute an offence under Britain’s new Terrorism Act.
Spanish authorities had claimed that the phrase was used in letters among ETA members as an expression of encouragement and continuity in their activities.
Judge Burgess said that “given the meanings attributed to the statements” such words could be considered as an offence under section one of the 2006 Act.
The judge concluded that the alleged offence was therefore “extraditable” and additionally ruled that Spain had satisfied all preliminary issues on the extradition warrant.
Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Mr de Juana Chaos, said the move would be contested on human rights and procedural grounds.
Mr de Juana Chaos was granted continuing bail while the case continues. A two-day hearing when his lawyers will attempt to stop the extradition will take place in May.