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Belfast judge rejects Basque extradition warrant

category antrim | rights, freedoms and repression | news report author Thursday November 19, 2009 18:37author by Emma Clancy - Don't Extradite the Basques Campaign Report this post to the editors

Charges are politically motivated and must be dropped

The Don't Extradite the Basques Campaign has welcomed the ruling by a Belfast judge that the Spanish extradition warrant against Belfast-based Basque activist Artruro Benat Villanueva was “invalid” and calls for the dropping of charges against Iñaki de Juana

‘Charges are politically motivated and must be dropped’

Judge Tom Burgess ruled on Wednesday 18 November that the Spanish authorities’ extradition warrant against Belfast-based Basque activist Artruro Benat Villanueva was “invalid”. The judge rejected the warrant, which claimed that Mr Villanueva was a “member of an illegal terrorist organisation” (Jarrai) from 1994-2000, on the grounds that it did not include any particularities, or details of specific offences committed.

The judge further ruled that there was no specific evidence cited in the warrant that proved Mr Villanueva’s membership of the organisation.

The prosecution has a week to decide if they plan to appeal the ruling.

Welcoming the judgment today, Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign spokesperson Kevin Morrison said: “The judge’s ruling demonstrates the validity in the message that the Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign has been putting forward – that the extradition warrant against Benat was politically motivated.

“We urge the British government to acknowledge, after today’s ruling, that the cases against both Basque men being sought by the Spanish government are flawed and politically motivated. The extradition request against Iñaki de Juana must also now be rejected.”

*Arturo Beñat Villanueva
“There were several fundamental flaws in the arrest warrant against Beñat, and the lack of particularity – the fact that there are no exact dates, locations or details of participation in any offence by Beñat – made the warrant invalid in the judge’s view,” Mr Morrison said.

“While Jarrai is a solely political organisation, it was declared illegal by the Spanish authorities in 2005 and categorised as a “terrorist” organisation by Spain’s Supreme Court in 2007.

“During the period of Beñat’s alleged membership of Jarrai, the organisation was legal. The non-retrospectivity legal principle was clearly being breached by the terms of the warrant for his extradition.
“Beñat is being targeted by the Spanish authorities for carrying out political, public and peaceful youth work in the Basque Country. His only ‘crime’ was his political ideas in favour of Basque independence and socialism.”

*‘Reject warrant against Iñaki de Juana’

“The Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign will continue to oppose the ongoing extradition process against Iñaki de Juana, who is also being targeted on spurious grounds by the Spanish government.

“We believe both men are clearly being persecuted solely for their political opinions, not for any criminal activity. We believe they will not receive a fair hearing with the Spanish judicial system and face the risk of torture.

“We urge the Spanish government to rethink its criminalisation strategy against the pro-independence movement, particularly at this moment in time when significant initiatives towards reviving the peace process have been taken this week by the Basque Abertzale Left movement.

“We urge the British government to acknowledge, after today’s ruling, that the cases against both men are flawed and politically motivated, and to reject the extradition request against Iñaki de Juana.”

***************************

Text of summary of judgment below

The Recorder of Belfast, His Honour Judge Burgess, sitting today in the County Court Division of Belfast, ruled that the European Arrest Warrant for the extradition to Spain of Arturo Villanueva Arteaga to face charges of membership of an illegal terrorist organisation is invalid.

On 27 February 2009 the High Court of Spain issued a European Arrest Warrant for the arrest and extradition of Arturo Villaneuva Arteaga for the offence of being a member of an illegal terrorist organisation, namely JARRAI (a sub-division of ETA). It was claimed that Arturo Villaneuva Arteaga carried out violent and coercive actions in the Basque Region from 1994 to 2000. In January 2007 the Spanish Supreme Court sentenced many members of JARRAI, however some, including Arturo Villaneuva Arteaga, fled abroad without being tried.

Arturo Villaneuva Arteaga was arrested in Northern Ireland on 22 April 2009 and brought before the court with a view to him being extradited to Spain. Representatives for Arturo Villaneuva Arteaga argued that the European Arrest Warrant was defective and did not contain the information required by the Extradition Act 2003.

The Recorder said that the Warrant specifically states the offence as “member of an illegal terrorist organisation” and that it contains sufficient information to allow him to conclude that it is membership of JARRAI that is being alleged. The Recorder found, however, that the particulars in the Warrant are general and lack any specificity as to the actions of Arturo Villaneuva Arteaga which would evidence his membership of the organisation, for example attending meetings, giving interviews, or being involved in the organisation of the group.

The judge said that the Warrant also makes a specific reference to Arturo Villaneuva Arteaga personally carrying out violent and coercive actions from 1994 to 2000. He noted in his judgment that there was no reference to where the attacks are alleged to have taken place, the specific targets of the alleged attacks, the dates or any other information which would, in his opinion, allow anyone reading the Warrant to know what specific personal allegation or allegations are being made against Arturo Villaneuva Arteaga over and above his alleged membership of JARRAI.

He therefore declared that the Warrant is invalid.

Related Link: http://www.dontextraditethebasques.org
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