Belfast Telegraph

Basque separatist wanted for murder and ETA bombing campaign will be extradited from Northern Ireland to Spain

By Alan Erwin

A Basque separatist wanted in Spain over a murder and bombing campaign failed today in a bid to halt his extradition from Northern Ireland.

Fermin Vila Michelena, 43, was seeking to overturn a ruling that he be returned to face charges connected to terrorist attacks in Madrid.

His lawyers challenged the order by claiming evidence against him had been obtained by torturing two co-accused.

But senior judges in Belfast dismissed his appeal after declaring there was nothing to suggest he would be denied a fair trial in Spain.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "The allegations of torture in this case are either completely unsupported or untested and uncorroborated."

Vila Michelena was detained by the PSNI on a European Arrest Warrant in June 2010.

Spanish authorities want him to stand trial for offences linked to the Basque separatist group ETA.

The charges relate to separate killings of a military general and police officer in Madrid 11 years ago.

He is also being sought in connection with a car bomb attack on a bank in the Spanish capital in 2001 which injured 18 people and caused 1.7m euros damage.

Further allegations include attempted murder, possession of explosives, causing terrorist havoc, and forgery.

His extradition was ordered in October 2012 following a hearing at Belfast Recorders' Court.

However, the removal had been put on hold pending the outcome of an appeal to the High Court.

His counsel set out details of the alleged ill-treatment the two co-accused suffered while in the custody of Spanish police.

One of them, a woman, claimed officers threatened to kill her, pulled her hair and punched her repeatedly about the heard.

Her initial detention period was said to have lasted for up to five days.

It was argued that the Recorder failed to properly consider how the other co-accused retracted his admission statement, claiming he had been tortured too.

According to Vila Michelana's lawyers it would be unconscionable to permit his extradition in those circumstances.

They also argued that he would be denied his right to a fair trial, and that warrants had been issued to punish him over his political support for Basque independence.

But Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Coghlin, rejected all grounds of appeal.

He identified contradictions in the torture allegations and noted Spanish authorities have stated any evidence obtained by such means would be excluded.

The judge said: "We do not accept that the appellant has established that if returned to Spain there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be exposed to a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice.

"We accept that he would not be held incommunicado if returned to Spain and that there is no risk of him being exposed to torture or similar treatment.

"The offences charges are extradition offences and are not based on political opinions."

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