4 March 2010 Edition
Iñaki De Juana extradition ruling 'grossly inhumane'
Confidence in Spanish judicial system ‘unwarranted’
BY EMMA CLANCY
The decision to allow the extradition of Basque ex-prisoner Iñaki de Juana to Spain is “grossly inhumane” and ignores evidence that the Spanish authorities are knowingly abusing the extradition process, spokesperson for the Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign Kevin Morrison said on Monday 1 March. “The judge expressed confidence in the Spanish judicial system which we believe is unwarranted,” Morrison said. The Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign would continue to support Iñaki through his appeal against the judgment, he added.
Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún said: “Inaki de Juana is being pursued for his political ideas and the extradition attempts on behalf of the Spanish authorities should be abandoned.
“It is Sinn Féin’s belief that there are now important developments happening within the Basque Country, through initiatives for the Abertzale Left to resolve the conflict and to pursue national and democratic rights through peaceful and democratic methods. The Spanish Government should grasp this opportunity instead of focusing on negative approaches such as these extradition cases.”
Risk of death
“During the hearing last November, psychological expert Dr Adrian Grounds testified that Iñaki would face a very serious deterioration in his health and likely, if not certain, death through hunger strike if he was extradited,” Morrison said. Dr Grounds is a senior university lecturer at Cambridge University and an expert on the impact of imprisonment on the psychological health of detainees.
“During the hearing, the defence also pointed out that the Spanish authorities were knowingly abusing the extradition process because they knew they did not have any evidence against Iñaki, and that the case was politically motivated,” Morrison said.
“In court, Dr Grounds said that Iñaki’s previous experiences in Spanish prisons – including repeated beatings and being held in solitary confinement for more than 17 of his total 21 years in jail – had been extremely traumatic.
“The expert also cited the well-known abuses carried out against Basque political prisoners documented by the UN’s Committee on the Prevention of Torture as well as reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
“This prison experience has left Iñaki suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and absolute exhaustion. “Dr Grounds said that to return him to the Spanish prison system would very likely result in Iñaki going on a hunger strike to the death. He said that in his opinion, this would partly be a political act of protest, but it would also reflect Iñaki’s inability to return to the conditions that had caused his exhaustion and PTSD.
“The case against Iñaki is motivated by vindictiveness on the part of the Spanish government despite the fact that there is no evidence against him. The charges are spurious and absurd. “The Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign will step up its efforts to build awareness of the facts of this case, and public support for Iñaki during the appeal process, in light of this ruling,” Morrison said. During the November hearing, Edward Fitzgerald QC, defending, said: “Would it now be inhumane to put him back in custody on the basis of what someone says someone read out at a rally though no-one has the document? We say it’s grossly disproportionate and inhumane to do that.”
More than 1,000 people have now signed the petition which demands that the British government reject the Spanish government’s extradition requests against Iñaki de Juana and Arturo Villanueva, including MEP Bairbre de Brún, journalist John Pilger, civil rights activist Fearghas Ó hÍr and lawyer Professor Phil Scraton. The Spanish authorities are trying to extradite the former prisoner and hunger-striker from Belfast, where he moved immediately after his release in August last year, on charges of “glorifying terrorism”. The arrest warrant is based on a single media report of somebody at a rally in Donostia/San Sebastian last August, which was celebrating de Juana’s release from prison, reading a letter that used the popular Basque expression “Aurrera bolie” (“Kick the ball forward”). The Spanish authorities claim this phrase constitutes a call for the continuation of armed struggle. De Juana was not present at this rally and denies writing such a letter, which Spanish police admit they cannot produce. Judge Tom Burgess ruled in March that “glorifying terrorism” was an extraditable offence that had an equivalent under the British Terrorism Act 2006. He said that he did not have to study the quality of the evidence against de Juana, as that was a matter for the Spanish courts. The defence team argued two main points: that the Spanish authorities were knowingly abusing the extradition process, and that extradition would cause a disproportionate threat to de Juana’s health.