A convicted member of the Basque separatist group ETA surrendered himself to a court in Northern Ireland today, after an arrest warrant was issued for him last week, an AFP correspondent said. Juan Ignacio de Juana Chaos, one of the most notorious Basque separatists, arrived with his partner at the Belfast court, although it was not immediately clear if he was arrested. He walked into the Laganside Courthouse of his own free will, ahead of a legal hearing on the case before judge Tom Burgess, in the presence of a lawyer representing the Spanish government.
While there was some confusion over De Juana Chaos' exact status, his lawyer Kevin Winters told reporters a short time later that "everything (was) in order" for the hearing, including a translator. A lawyer, Stephen Ritchie, representing the Spanish government, initially said the case could not proceed immediately, although he said De Juana Chaos would be "arrested shortly by agreement". A Spanish court last week issued a European arrest warrant for De Juana Chaos, who was freed from a Spanish jail in August after serving about 20 years for the killing of 25 people in 11 attacks.
Judge Eloy Velasco ordered the warrant after he failed to appear as ordered last Tuesday for questioning on an accusation of glorifying terrorism. ETA is blamed for the deaths of 823 people in its 40-year campaign of bombings and shootings to carve a Basque homeland out of northern Spain and southwestern France. The most deadly attack involving De Juana Chaos took place in July, 1986, when 12 members of the Civil Guard police force were killed in a bomb blast in Madrid.