A Basque terrorist is trying to blackmail a court by warning he faces near-certain death if sent back to Spain, it was claimed yesterday.
Lawyers for Spanish authorities who are seeking to have Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos extradited from Northern Ireland hit back at allegations that any return would expose him to inhumane treatment. The 54-year-old, who has already served a jail sentence for his role in up to 25 murders, is wanted over claims that he glorified terrorism.
Judge Tom Burgess, the Recorder for Belfast, has already ruled the alleged offence makes him eligible for extradition unless his defence team can overcome a legal hurdle.
His lawyers claim he was beaten repeatedly and subjected to 17 years’ solitary confinement during a previous imprisonment.
Those assaults and ill-treatment at prisons in Spain and on the Canary Islands between 1987 and 1998 led to symptoms of anxiety and sleep deprivation, it was alleged.
The court was told the Basque separatist, who had endured previous hunger strikes, would suffer a serious deterioration in his health and likely death if sent back to jail there.
However, barrister Stephen Ritchie for the Spanish authorities contested the reasons given for why extradition should be refused.
“In effect, what the defendant is saying to the court is ‘I will probably go on hunger strike and I may die',” he said.
“It sounds very much like blackmail but it comes nowhere near reaching the threshold of proving he faces inhumane or degrading treatment.”
Mr Ritchie also argued there was no evidence to show de Juana Chaos would not get bail in Spain with safeguards available under European law.
The accused, currently on bail in Belfast, is being sought over the contents of a letter read out at a rally in San Sebastian in August 2008.
The message was allegedly given in his name with the charge against him heavily dependent on the Basque phrase ‘aurrrea bolie’, which translates literally as ‘kick the ball forward'.
He faces the possibility of a two-year jail sentence if convicted of the public justification of terrorist actions which caused humiliation and intensified the grief of victims and their relatives. His lawyers claim there is no case against him and that the prosecuting authorities had abused the extradition process.
To extradite de Juana Chaos would violate several strands of the European Convention on Human Rights, including his right to freedom from torture, right to liberty, and right to freedom of expression, they argue.