PARIS — The last known leader of ETA, the now-extinct Basque separatist militant group, was back in court Monday from Paris to confront terrorism charges he deems”ridiculous” due to his role in ending a conflict that claimed countless lives and terrorized Spain for half a century.
Jose Urrutikoetxea directed ETA during one of its bloodiest periods when its victims comprised children strangled to death while sleeping at a Zaragoza authorities compound, in which a monument for their lives that were stolen today stands.
That is a ridiculous claim to people who lost loved ones to ETA’s violence, which triggered approximately 850 deaths and thousands of injuries and scattering the Basque and Spanish political argument for decades. Just because he mimicked ETA’s ending in 2018, they worry, that does not erase his past.
A judge in the Paris appeal court on Monday postponed the first of 2 back-to-back trials to February next year since a number of the witnesses could not make it to Monday’s hearing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Spanish anti-terrorism researchers have portrayed him as a bloodthirsty urge of violence who just opportunistically pursued negotiations after police crackdowns and a diminishing support foundation from Basque separatists diminished ETA.
Today 69, diminished by a struggle with cancer and facing the possibility of spending the twilight of a lifetime dedicated to newfound liberty behind bars, the man widely referred to by his own authorities alias Josu Ternera, or”The Calf,” says he is accountable to the”irreparable harm” due to ETA violence because it sought to construct an independent state straddling the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France.
But when he admits insecurities, ” he adds a caveat.
Asked if he’d apologize to ETA victims’ families, he told The Associated Press: “Obviously, (I provide ) apologies for something which we can not fix”
However, he insisted that the liberty movement endured, also, from violence suspended from the Spanish dictatorship that ended over four years before, and largely from fictitious teams within the Spanish authorities which in the 1980s murdered and tortured almost 30 ETA members along with other militants.
“The Basque nation was entering into a black hole” of ethnic repression, Urrutikoetxea explained, “and we needed to do the max to pull out”
Several of ETA’s victims said that they need over apologies; they need him to face prosecution.
“I do not look for revenge from Josu Ternera,” explained Lucía Ruiz, who was 10 when she had been hurt from the 1987 burst targeting military police barracks at Zaragoza, where she lived with her dad, a civil defense. “However, this gentleman attempted to kill me and that I need to allow him to pay a cost for this.
Considering his inaugural arrest this past year, Urrutikoetxea was on a campaign to lose the terrorist tag and rebrand himself as a repentant, aging peacemaker.
Amid growing international service, he won conditional launch in July pending trial, following attorneys argued his inadequate wellbeing left him vulnerable to contracting coronavirus. He is currently staying with a professor buddy close to Paris’ Place de la Republique at which he’s attempting to receive a college diploma and can be permitted out a couple of hours every day using an electronic bracelet.
By placing him on trial, they assert, “France is implicitly criminalizing all of the negotiators and calling into question all of the future and current peace processes on the planet.”
But around the Pyrenees, these forecasts are rejected by the great majority of Spain’s political mainstream. Survivors of violent strikes and relatives of ETA’s victims say the effort humiliates them.
Ruiz and Spanish police think that Urrutikoetxea, as ETA’s leader, both authorized or understood about the automobile which, filled up with dynamite, burst under her window in the Zaragoza Civil Guard headquarters in which she dwelt with her father, sister, and mother.
Three ETA assailants were tried and tried because the executors of this assault, which killed 11 people, including six minors, them her acquaintances or neighbors.
“He presents himself as the nation’s savior,” Ruiz explained. It’ll be tricky to show in court he orchestrated the assault, she explained, since”unfortunately these folks do not leave a paper trail. However, this gentleman is a murderer, with murder capital letters”
Urrutikoetxea denies any function, stating, “They need me to reply for something that I had nothing to do with.”
It had some substantial support among separatist-minded Basques, but many additional Basques were appalled with its tactics and quieted by the terror that the group levied.
Many Spaniards believed that ETA must have disbanded with the return of democracy to Spain after Franco’s death in 1975, not to continue its barbarous attack on the nation and its taxpayers.
Since ETA’s violent approaches dropped influence, Urrutikoetxea functioned as a lawmaker from the Basque regional parliament and a negotiator in discussions with Spanish envoys to attempt and terminate the band’s actions.
Indicted for his alleged part in the Zaragoza assault while he was on a visit to Switzerland in 2002, that he had been Spain’s most-sought driver until his arrest outside of a hospital in the French Alps in May 2019.
Her phone began ringing and she did not quit taking calls until late at night.
“Initially, it was a huge joy believing that he is no longer on the run,” Ruiz explained, including that Urrutikoetxea might have information on over 300 unresolved ETA killings.
Urrutikoetxea asserts he was beneath silent French police defense for several years.
“You can not say I had been living clandestinely,” he explained. “The French authorities were conscious and was immediately involved since they eased the chance for me to journey” to peace talks in Switzerland and Norway, despite being on Interpol’s most-wanted list.
France’s Justice Ministry and Interior Ministry wouldn’t comment on his or her claims.
ETA gave its arms up in 2017, and Urrutikoetxea browses the announcement announcing ETA’s final dismantling within a sound recording released on May 3, 2018.
“We needed to get to the purpose of the conclusion of confrontation and make the requirements and open the road to peace, whatever it cost… for the generations ahead,” for example his six grandchildren, he explained.
French and Spanish governments have not forgotten ETA’s past.
Meanwhile, he had been confronting justice that week for the first time in years. After his arrest, Urrutikoetxea appealed two obligations in absentia for”criminal association to prepare a terrorist action,” which he had been sentenced to 15 years complete in prison.
A judge on Monday postponed to Feb. 22 and 23 the initial circumstance, for alleged assault plots in the 2000s. Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday about the next circumstance, for strikes in the 2010s.
“This accusation is for action when I had been preparing the floor to work toward a peace procedure. It is absurd that they would like to judge ” with this, he explained during the meeting with the AP.
When the French trials finish, France has agreed to extradite Urrutikoetxea into Spain, even though his defense has escalated.
Despite any support in France because of his origin, French President Emmanuel Macron has worried about ETA’s”grave offenses,” stating that”political reconciliation and renouncing weapons do not erase anything.”
“He’s approached us to apologize, and even when he didn’t doubt I’d pardon him. What I do need is to see him taking the stand,” she said, standing on the website of ETA’s assault on the Civil Guard.
Urrutikoetxea says sufferers are”politicized from the Spanish authorities,” and prefers discussing the long run.
“The pain is there, of those households,” he explained. “What will that cure? Nothing whatsoever… you need to be prepared to proceed.”
For Gaizka Fernández Soldevilla, a historian with the Foundation and Memorial for Terrorism Victims from the Basque region’s capital, Vitoria, the attempts to disband ETA needs to be treated individually by the bloodstream offenses committed under these initials.
Basque society,” he said, remains broken: “There’s a part which wants to turn the page without having read it, and there’s another side which wishes to receive a lesson for democracy from it. To draw a conclusion, not to punish ourselves, but to attempt to cure the wounds and eventually become a coherent, cohesive society.”
That will not occur, Fernández explained, “if all of that is done is to attempt and forget.”