Beñat leaving court
Judge Tom Burgess ruled last Wednesday that the Spanish authorities’ extradition warrant against Belfast-based Basque activist Artruro "Beñat" 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 alleged to have been committed.
The judge further ruled that there was no specific evidence cited in the warrant that proved Mr Villanueva’s membership of the organisation.
On Friday the Prosecution decided 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
Mr. Morrison went on to say: “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.”
“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’
Mr. Morrison continued: “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 that they 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.”