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Josu Ternera: Head of Eta Basque rebels released

A file picture dated from 20 April 2002 of Jose Antonio Urruticoechea, known as Josu Ternera

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Josu Ternera was arrested in the French Alps earlier this year after 16 years on the run

The political leader of the Basque separatist group Eta has been granted conditional release by a Paris court.

Josu Ternera – whose real name is José Antonio Urrutikoetxea – was arrested last month after 16 years on the run.

He has been accused of involvement in killings during Eta’s campaign for Basque independence.

As part of the court’s decision, he must hand in his passport, stay in France, and check in with police every week.

Judges who presided over his case did not explain their decision, newspaper El Pais reports (in Spanish).

His lawyers hailed the latest court ruling as “a victory for justice”, according to the AFP news agency.

Ternera, 68, was arrested at a hospital in the French Alps last month – where he said he was due to have an operation the same day.

His lawyers told judges he was seriously ill.

For 15 years, he headed Eta – a group which killed more than 800 people during its violent campaign from 1968 to 2010. Eta declared a ceasefire in 2011 and announced last year that it had disbanded.

Spanish prosecutors allege that Ternera was involved in a car bomb attack in December 1987 outside a Civil Guard barracks in the northern city of Zaragoza, which killed 11 people, including five children.

Media captionETA has “completely dismantled all of its structures”

From 1989 to 2000 he was held in French and Spanish jails. At the time of his disappearance in 2002, he was a free man – but failed to answer a court summons over the Zaragoza attack.

In 2010, he was convicted in absentia of associating with a terrorist group after his fingerprints were found in an apartment used by Eta members in Lourdes, southern France.

Ternera was sentenced to seven years in jail, and given another eight-year term in 2017 after again being convicted in absentia, this time for participating in a terrorist organisation.

During Wednesday’s appeal against his first conviction, lawyer Laurent Pasquet-Marinacce said Ternera had been the “main architect” of Eta’s eventual ceasefire.

Mr Pasquet-Marinacce also said that, in light of his poor health, Ternera’s doctors had concluded the he urgently needed an operation on his prostate.

On 28 June, Ternera will appear in court again to appeal against his second conviction.

Should he lose either appeal, he is expected to be imprisoned in France. But Spain is likely to request his extradition over the Zaragoza attack and his alleged involvement in other crimes, including the 1980 murder of a Michelin manager, Luis María Hergueta.

Where is the Basque Country?

  • The Basque Country is an autonomous region of northern Spain, with its own president and parliament
  • It has a population of about 2.2 million
  • The area is called Euskadi in Basque, an ancient tongue unrelated to other European languages
  • It has no official capital, but its de facto capital is Vitoria-Gasteiz where the Basque Parliament is based
  • Ethnic Basques also live in adjacent areas of Spain and France

Josu Ternera: Head of Eta Basque rebels released

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