Taxpayers shelled out £65,000 in legal aid for ETA killer of 25 people who has now fled
Legal aid which is funding a fugitive ETA killer’s fight against extradition from Northern Ireland to Spain should be halted immediately, it has been demanded by a DUP peer.
Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos was released from prison in August 2008 after serving over 21 years in jail for his part in a campaign of terrorist murders.
He is wanted in Spain to face a new charge of glorifying terrorism over the contents of a letter read out at a rally in San Sebastian. Nothing has been heard from de Juana since a court in Belfast ruled last year that he should be returned and the 55-year-old is believed to have fled Northern Ireland.
The extradition is currently being appealed by his legal team.
Now it has emerged that de Juana has received £64,346 in legal aid so far. The figures were released by Justice Minister David Ford in response to an Assembly question from DUP peer Lord Morrow.
Mr Ford revealed the solicitor’s legal aid costs paid currently stand at £21,980. It is anticipated that costs for junior counsel will be £18,169, with senior counsel costs expected to be £24,197.
The expenditure was revealed just weeks after Northern Ireland’s top judge, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, ruled that de Juana’s aid should be restricted.
However, Lord Morrow now believes the funding should be completely stopped.
“On learning the whereabouts of this man are presently unknown, I sought information from the Minister for Justice on how much the public is paying to allow him to fight extradition,” he said.
“The total is estimated in the region of £64,346 from the public purse and that is by no means finalised. Yet despite this huge outpouring of funding, de Juana is nowhere to be seen.
“Proceedings cannot go ahead meaningfully in this fugitive's absence, as he cannot be available to provide instructions and information to his legal team.
“His disappearance smacks of indifference to the rule of law, and shows a distinct ingratitude given his costs are fully funded.”
Lord Morrow said de Juana’s case should not take up court time and public costs while his whereabouts are unknown.
“He was released on bail after a court appearance and has failed to appear, although I’m at a loss as to why he was granted bail in the first place, given his prior ability to flee Spain when he knew he was in trouble,” the DUP MLA added.
Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos was a member of the Basque separatist group ETA and was convicted of killing 25 people in 1987. He was originally sentenced to 3,000 years in prison but was released in 2008. He is wanted in Spain over the contents of a letter read out at a rally the day after his release from jail. Last year a court in Belfast ordered his extradition, but de Juana has since gone on the run. His whereabouts are unknown.