The ancient corridors of the Cité Palace of Justice, in the heart of Paris, hold no secrets for José Antonio Urrutikoetxea, Josu Ternera .
Since his arrest in the French Alps in May 2019 put an end to 17 years in hiding, the former head of ETA has visited them multiple times to attend the hearings in which his four extradition demands to Spain were discussed, two of them already approved, and his situation in France, where he has been on probation since last summer. This time, however, it will be something different. Urrutikoetxea faces his first trial in France this Monday and Tuesday since his arrest.\
This is the repetition of the first of the two processes that were held against him in France for alleged belonging to a terrorist organization, in this case between 2002 and 2005. In the trial that, at the request of Ternera after his arrest, is repeated now, he was sentenced in absentia, in 2010, to seven years in prison and his final expulsion from the country.
A long decade later, with ETA dissolved and an aging Urrutikoetxea – he has served 70 years during his probation in Paris – and in delicate health, according to his defense, the historic leader of the terrorist gang seeks to present himself as a key negotiator of the peace.
Before starting the process, whose start on Monday is not guaranteed – there have been other postponements – Urrutikoetxea’s strategy has suffered a first setback: one of the key witnesses who had summoned his defense, the former Basque Socialist leader Jesús Eguiguren , who was the representative of the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in the talks with the band for the frustrated peace process of 2005-2006, announced last week that he will not go to Paris, according to El Correo.
The defense of Josu Ternera has also called to testify the former Secretary General of Interpol Raymond Kendall, the Northern Irish politician and former member of the IRA Gerry Kelly, and David Harland, of the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, specialized in the mediation of armed conflicts, reports Eph.
The big question is whether those summoned will appear this week in Paris, will testify in some way from a distance or if, like Eguiguren, they will decline to testify in favor of Urrutikoetxea.
The trial in the French capital is held less than a week after Urrutikoetxea’s first appointment with the Spanish justice. In a videoconference from Paris, Ternera was informed on Wednesday by the judge of the National Court Santiago Pedraz of his prosecution for the 1980 attack in Vitoria that cost the life of Luis María Hergueta, director of the Michelin company, and for the financing of the terrorist organization through the herriko taverns, case for which the French justice has already given its final approval to its delivery to Spain.
The first is still pending a final decision from the Supreme Court. The French justice has also definitively approved the extradition of Veal for the attack against the Civil Guard headquarters in Zaragoza in 1987, in which 11 people were murdered, including six children.
His trials in Spain are nevertheless still very uncertain. In any case, he must first be tried in France and, should he be convicted, he will have to serve the sentence imposed on him.
In addition to this first trial, Urrutikoetxea has a second trial pending, the repetition of the trial in which he was sentenced, also in absentia, to another eight years in prison in relation to his prominent role in the ETA political apparatus between 2011 and 2013, at a time when he was in Oslo trying to negotiate with the Spanish Government that did not take place. This second trial will be held, at the earliest, in June.