Monday, July 4

Josu Ternera in his first trial in France: “The end of the armed struggle came too late” | Spain

Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoechea, Josu Ternera, during his trial in Paris this week
Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoechea, Josu Ternera, during his trial in Paris this weekCHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON / EFE

The French Prosecutor’s Office has requested five years in prison and the definitive expulsion from the French territory for the former leader of ETA José Antonio Urrutikoetxea, Josu Veal, in the first of two pending trials in France. The historic member of the terrorist gang, whose defense has requested his acquittal, is accused of “association of criminals for terrorist purposes” – equivalent to the crime of integration into a terrorist organization of the Spanish Penal Code – for his role in ETA between 2011 and 2013. In this period, Urrutikoetxea has assured that he was already totally disconnected from the terrorist organization, despite having participated in its dissolution process until 2018. The sentence will be announced on September 1, as announced by the president of the Correctional Court of Paris.

During the trial, Urrutikoetxea said he regretted that “the end of the armed struggle came too late.” It could have been achieved in Switzerland and thus end a conflict that has caused “irreversible victims (…) I regret it,” said the historic ETA leader, who currently resides in a “cell” of a religious community, the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, in the center of Paris, from where he prepares a film and a book about his life and his “experience, to avoid falling into the same facts in the future.”

Despite this, the prosecutor stressed during her final statement, it is “almost impossible for Ternera to say that the acts committed by ETA are acts of terrorism, which sowed terror in society (…) that work, that step has not been taken completely”.

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The trial has been a repeat of the process in which he was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2017, when he was still in hiding. After his arrest in the French Alps, in May 2019, Ternera exercised his right to demand a repetition of the trials held in absentia, whose hearings have been postponed several times. The second of the French trials is scheduled for mid-September, for the same charges as in this trial, but for the period between 2002 and 2005. Some dates on which, as recognized by Urrutikoetxea in these days of hearing, He was still an active member of ETA.

Since he went to probation in the summer of 2020 – he wears an electronic bracelet -, Veal, has tried to carve out a profile of peace mediator in armed conflicts. The French justice system has already approved two demands to be sent to Spain – for the attack on the Zaragoza barracks in 1987, which left 11 dead, and for the case of financing ETA through the village bars– when he is serving his sentences in France.

Presenting himself as a mediator to achieve peace is also his strategy in this process. According to him, he decided to cut all ties with ETA “in September 2006”, after the first negotiations in Switzerland with the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

Last Monday he said: “At one of the meetings, in Lausanne [Suiza], I was removed from the organization because I did not share the views of the delegation. From that moment, I have not been part of any organization chart of the organization ”. And he reiterated on Tuesday: “I am leaving because I do not agree with the political line of negotiation that is being made, because I think there is no way out.” He no longer saw any member of the terrorist gang, except when he was called again – ”from the left. nationalist”, He pointed out— to participate in a new negotiation attempt in 2011, in Norway.

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