Former Eta leader sentenced to prison in France
A former leader the Basque nationalist group Eta, José Antonio Urrutikoetxea, was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison by a Paris appeals court for associating with a terrorist group. Spanish media report that Urrutikoetxea, who is on the run, might become head of the armed movement again this week.
The sentence was handed down in absentia. Urrutikoetxea, known as “Josu Ternera”, is a former member of the Spanish Basque regional parliament. He was the head of Eta until the failed peace deal in 2006.
Several Spanish media report that he is set to take over the reigns of Eta again this week. He is considered to be open to dialogue with the Spanish authorities, and close to Arnaldo Otegi, the leader of the group’s political wing Batasuna.
The Paris appeals court convicted Urrutikoetxea of being associated with terrorists, the only charge that prosecutors could prove, based on his fingerprints having been found in Eta apartments and a vehicle in Lourdes and Villeneuve-sur-Lot, in the south-west of France.
His son, Egoitz, was sentenced to four years of prison in the first trial. He did not appeal.
Urrutikoetxea disappeared in 2002, when the Spanish supreme court issued an arrest warrant for him, in connection to a 1987 attack against a police station in Saragossa, in which 11 people were killed, including five children.
Urrutikoetxea was sentenced to five years in his first trial in France. The appeals decision maintains the arrest warrant against him and he is banned from entering French territory.