Josu Ternera

Former ETA chief Josu Ternera faces a new trial in France

The historic leader of the Basque separatist organization ETA Josu Ternera returns on Monday and Tuesday to the courts in France for an appeal trial for “association of terrorist criminals” for his membership in the gang between 2002 and 2005.

Josu Ternera, 70, faces a 10-year prison sentence in this case for which he was sentenced in 2010 to five years in the first instance and seven years on appeal. But since he was tried then in absentia, after his arrest in 2019 he asked for a new trial.

According to the prosecution, her fingerprints and those of her son were found in 2002 in ETA hideouts in south-western France, in Lourdes and in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, and in a vehicle.

During the trial period, Josu Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea – his real name – was preparing for peace talks in Geneva, says his defense.

“He does not deny having been a member of ETA in this period,” his lawyer Laurent Pasquet-Marinacce told AFP, who nonetheless wondered if mere membership, “regardless of the activity he carried out,” is worthy of the crime that it is imputed to him.

At the beginning of September, the Paris court acquitted him of “association of terrorist criminals” between 2011 and 2013, finding no trace of an active activity during that period in ETA.

The verdict also stressed that “participating in one way or another” in a conflict resolution process “does not constitute a crime” of participation in a terrorist group.

Once this second process is finished, he could be handed over to Spain, as the justice system accepted in November 2020 the principle of his extradition requested by Madrid.

Spain claims him, among others, for his alleged involvement in a car bomb attack against the Civil Guard headquarters in Zaragoza, which left 11 dead in 1987, including four girls and two adolescents.

Emerged in 1959 under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, ETA is accused of having killed 853 people during four decades of violence in the name of the independence of the Basque Country.

Melissa Galbraith
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