A former leader of Basque group ETA fighting extradition from Northern Ireland to Spain to face a terrorism-related charge has disappeared and may have fled the country, a court heard on Thursday.
Jose Ignacio De Juana Chaos, 54, was ordered to be sent back to Spain by a Belfast judge in March. De Juana lodged an appeal and was out on bail before a hearing due in June.
He was charged in Spain with engaging in "public justification of terrorist acts" in August 2008 in connection with a gathering in San Sebastian, Spain, to mark his release from jail. At the time, De Juana had just served 21 years for his part in 25 murders during ETA's campaign of violence.
Spanish justice authorities alleged that a letter, read in his name, used the Basque phrase "aurrera bolie", which translates literally as "kick the ball forward".
De Juana was arrested in Northern Ireland in November 2008 on a Spanish warrant. In Belfast court appearances, De Juana, who headed ETA's Madrid commando, denied writing the letter.
Stephen Ritchie, lawyer for Spanish authorities, told the high court in Belfast on Thursday that De Juana had not, as required, reported to police or lived at a specified address in the city for more than a month.
"He has not reported to police since 25th March, the day before his case last came before this court. He has not been at his home address when police called or at two named cafes," said Ritchie. "There is good reason to believe he may have fled the jurisdiction."
An application to the court for De Juana's bail to be revoked was lodged. His lawyer Sean Devine confirmed his client had not made contact with any of his legal team since March 26. ETA is held responsible for the deaths of more than 800 people in its 40-year campaign to carve out an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwestern France.
The Basque Country already has considerable political autonomy and a leading member of ETA's banned political wing Batasuna has called on the rebels to lay down their arms.
ETA had close links to the Irish Republican Army, which has disarmed.
ReutersLast Mod: 29 Nisan 2010, 21:19