Belfast Telegraph

Why NI shouldn’t be seen as a safe haven for killers

By Lindy McDowell

A court in Belfast has ordered that we should send Chaos back to Spain. The Chaos in question is Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos, a Basque separatist leader who has previously been convicted of 25 murders over there.

Even by our standards then, a surprising early release candidate. (Although he did serve 21 years which, compared to some of our lot, is forever.)

Mr de Juana is wanted by the Spanish authorities over comments allegedly made in a letter which could, allegedly, be construed as justifying terrorism. (Expressing support for terrorism is a crime in Spain.)

The letter was read out on the day of his release. He denies he wrote it.

If found guilty he could go back to prison — hence the two-year anti-extradition battle to keep him here. (He can, of course, appeal this week’s verdict.)

His supporters have claimed that he would not get a fair trial back home, and that imprisonment could be bad for his mental health since he could be kept in solitary confinement.

So should we be concerned?

I have no idea whether or not de Juana is guilty of the glorifying terrorism rap.

But actually that isn’t the point.

Actually that is for the Spanish courts to decide. And it’s not as if we’re sending him to North Korea.

The arguments used in de Juana’s case — that he wouldn’t get a fair trial at home and that prison would be horrid for him — are hardly new where extradition hearings are concerned.

But Spain is one of our European neighbours — a modern, open democracy whose judicial system is fair and transparent.

This is their business — not ours. As the judge at the anti-extradition hearing rightly pointed out there is no evidence to suggest that he will not get a fair trial in Spain or that he would be barred from getting bail.

If we honestly believe that the Spanish courts are corrupt surely we should be campaigning for all Spanish defendants.

Not just for one notorious ETA terrorist.

During his time in Belfast de Juana had applied for a taxi driver’s licence — an application which had been dismissed by the courts.

At that hearing de Juana was described as “not someone still full of vim and vigour for any type of armed conflict. He's completely exhausted and wants to get on with his life.”

Why Belfast? He had come here, the court was told, because of “the way in which this society is prepared to give people who have committed awful offences a chance and a new start.”

Let’s hope Serb war lord Radovan Karadzic wasn’t taking notes

This is an odd — and unsettling — visitor recommendation is it not? “Bring us your tired terrorists and murderers yearning to be free”

We have more than enough problems of our own to be dealing with surely, without taking on the role as home from home for other nations’ unwanted (and wanted) terrorists.

A real recipe for chaos?

Rather than worry ourselves into a tizzy about Senor de Juana Chaos, shouldn’t we actually be more concerned about who else out there might now be eyeing this place up as a welcoming bolt hole on account of our indulgence towards “people who have committed awful offences”?

Peter Sutcliffe?

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