The Paris court estimated on Wednesday released the historic leader of ETA Josu Ternera, of facts of "participation in a terrorist criminal association".

Considered to be the “grandfather” of the Basque Country, Ta Askatasuna (“Basque Country and Freedom”), the 70-year-old man was accused of having continued to play an active role in the Basque separatist organization between 2011 and 2013 in participating in operations, living in hiding and maintaining ties with its members.

Josu Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea of ​​his real name had been retried at his request in June, after being sentenced in his absence in 2017, while he was on the run, to eight years in prison.

The court ruled that the investigation had not made it possible to establish that Josu Ternera, between 2011 and 2013, had "been in contact with members of the ETA", and that if he had lived in France in the In hiding "under a false name", no false papers were found, nor traces of suspicious funding or any help whatsoever from ETA members.

Sixteen years on the run

After the verdict, Josu Ternera, black jacket, graying hair and small glasses, hugged his lawyer for a long time, before leaving the courtroom without making a statement.

“We are relieved, satisfied, it is a necessary decision.

The court put an end to a case that should never have been opened, ”reacted one of his lawyers, Me Laurent Pasquet-Marinacce, after reading the court's decision.

Summoned by the Spanish justice system in 2002, Josu Ternera went into hiding and was arrested in May 2019, after more than sixteen years on the run, in the parking lot of a hospital in Savoy where he was going to be treated.

Not out of the woods so far

He must again face the French justice, on September 13 and 14, to answer for his membership in ETA, this time between 2002 and 2005. In this case, he was also tried and sentenced in his absence. in 2010 to five years in prison at first instance, then seven years on appeal.

His lawyer did not wish to speak about this next hearing.

"We'll see," he said simply, assuring by cons that his client would be present.

Once these legal proceedings are completed, Josu Ternera could be handed over to Spain, the Court of Cassation having accepted in November 2020 the principle of his extradition requested by Madrid.

Created in 1959 under Franco's Spanish dictatorship, ETA is accused of having killed at least 853 people during four decades of violence in the name of the independence of the Basque Country.


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  • Pays Basque

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