A Belfast court has ruled that a Basque man living in Belfast should be extradited to Spain on the basis of draconian Spanish legislation which outlaws any expression of support for armed groups in the Basque Country.
Jose Inaki de Juana Chaos is said to have penned a letter which included a phrase which Spanish authorities interpreted as an expression of support for ETA’s armed struggle for Basque independence. A letter was allegedly read out in his name at a rally in San Sebastian in August 2008.
On August 2, 2008, Mr de Juana Chaos was released from prison after serving 21 years of a 3000 year sentence. Charges currently against him focus on the Basque phrase “aurrera bolie”, which translates roughly as “move on”, or literally as “kick the ball forward”.
He faces the possibility of a two-year jail sentence if convicted in Spain of the charge of “public justification of terrorist actions which cause humiliation and intensify the grief of victims and their relatives”.
The extraordinary Spanish legislation has formed part of a broader campaign to suppress Basque nationalism and the struggle for an independent Basque Country. In recent years, a number of Basque political parties have been outlawed and their leaders jailed.
Today’s extradition was criticised for contravening international standards of justice and human rights and has raised fears over the use of spurious or invented offences in extradition cases.
According to a Crown Court spokeswoman, the recorder the Recorder at Belfast’s Laganside courts Tom Burgess said the court should assume confidence in the system of the administration of justice in the country seeking the arrest and extradition.
He said: “All courts are more than conscious of the statements and pressures that emanate from many sources without the judicial system, but there is no reason to believe that the judicial system of Spain is any less robust in carrying out its duties without fear or favour.”
The defence had argued his extradition was issued for the purposes of prosecuting him for his political opinions and, if extradited, he might be prejudiced at this trial or punished because of his views.
His lawyers also argued that De Juana’s mental condition was such that his extradition would not be compatible with his rights under the European Convention.
On Wednesday of last week, extradition proceedings against another Basque man were again thrown out by a three-judge High Court panel on appeal.
Arturo Arteaga’s extradition was being sought over claims that he belonged to the Jarrai youth group allegedly linked to the ETA group, but without reference to specific crimes or activities.
The High Court panel on Wednesday backed the decision to reject the extradition.
They said the warrant was “couched in unacceptably vague and general terms”.
Mr Justice McCloskey said: “Ultimately, the accusation contained in the EAW resolves to an assertion that the requested person was a member of Jarrai and that such organisation engaged in a large number of public order and other offences during a lengthy period.
“There is a failure to include supporting particulars of conduct, time and place attributed in express and personal terms to the requested person.”
Lawyers for the Spanish government immediately indicated they planned to take their case to the British Supreme Court.
* A majority of Catalans would vote in favour of independence from Spain if a referendum on the subject were held, according to a poll published yesterday.
The poll which its sponsors said was more extensive than previous surveys, comes as pro-independence activists have stepped up a campaign for an independence referendum in the northeastern Spanish region around Barcelona.
According to the poll, carried out for the Open University of Catalonia, 50.4 per cent of Catalans would vote in favour of independence if they were given the chance.
Just eighteen per cent say they would vote against independence for the region of of Catalunya, which, like the Basque Country, has its own culture and language.