Josu Ternera, historic leader of ETA, sees his case dismissed by the Paris Court of Appeal for irregularities

At 70, the one who is considered the grandfather of the Basque separatist organization Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA, “Basque Country and Freedom”), Josu Ternera, was to be tried on appeal for terrorist association because of his membership of the movement between 2002 and 2005. The Paris Court of Appeal returned, Monday, September 13, his trial because of irregularities in the file.

Everything is irregular, from the arrest warrant to the order for referral to the criminal court (…) The court considers that it cannot be seized and decides to grant the conclusions and to refer the public prosecutor to better provide , indicated the president of the court of appeal. Defense lawyers hailed a decision that imposed , according to them, adding that the investigating judge had to say exactly why Josu Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea, whose real name was to be tried.

In this case, he was sentenced in 2010 to five years in prison at first instance and then seven years on appeal. But as these sentences were pronounced in his absence, he was able to ask to be retried in person. During Monday’s hearing, Josu Ternera’s lawyers pointed out the arrest warrant and the order for referral to the criminal court, not precise enough , according to them. The arrest warrant was not clear, we did not know what he was accused of : was it his membership in ETA, was it having had a terrorist activity ? , declared Me Laurent Pasquet-Marinacce at the end of the hearing

Ternera could be handed over to Spain

Josu Ternera was appointed in 1999 as one of the three negotiators in the ultimately aborted peace process. It was he who, on May 3, 2018, announced the dissolution of the organization. According to the prosecution, his fingerprints and those of his son were found in 2002 in ETA caches in southwestern France, in Lourdes and Villeneuve-sur-Lot, as well as in a vehicle. He claims to have cut all ties with ETA in the fall of 2006.

At the beginning of September, the Paris court acquitted him of the facts of participation in a “terrorist criminal association” between 2011 and 2013, not having found ” no trace “ of his active involvement in the Basque organization at that time.

Once the French legal proceedings are over, Josu Ternera could be handed over to Spain, the Court of Cassation having accepted in November 2020 the principle of his extradition requested by Madrid. Summoned by Spanish justice in 2002, Josu Ternera went into hiding and was arrested in May 2019, after more than sixteen years on the run, in the parking lot of a hospital in Haute-Savoie where he was going to be treated.

Instigator of the car bombing strategy

This ETA activist, regional deputy of the radical nationalist coalition Euskal Herritarrok, had gone into hiding after being summoned to court for his alleged role in an attack on a civil guard barracks in Zaragoza, in the north -est of Spain, which had made eleven dead, including five children, in 1987. According to the National Hearing, high court located in Madrid, he was also wanted for his alleged implication in the assassination, in 1980, of a Michelin executive in Spain.

Josu Ternera is considered to be the instigator of the car bombing strategy adopted by ETA in the 1980s. According to counterterrorism experts, he also set up the commando itinerant ETA formed of French activists, which was the organization’s deadliest. Mr. Ternera had joined ETA in the late 1960s, during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, and had taken refuge in France in the 1970s. Head of ETA from the late 1970s until his arrest in France in At least 1989, he ended up being dismissed from the general staff in 2006 by the most radical of the organization.

Created in 1959 under Franco’s Spanish dictatorship, ETA is accused of having killed at least 853 people during four decades of violence in the name of the independence of the Basque Country.

The World with AFP

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