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Antonio Urrutikoetxea, former leader of ETA, was acquitted by a court in Paris

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A court in Paris ruled that Antonio Urrutikoetxea, accused of running a Basque terrorist organization in France between 2011 and 2013, is innocent. However, Ternera will again face the French judiciary in September.

A Paris court ruled on Wednesday that there is insufficient evidence to prove that Antonio Urrutikoetxea, known as Josu Ternera, was active in France at ETA from 2011 to 2013. According to the prosecution, Ternera was to play a key role in the operations carried out at the time. At the time of the trial, the former head of a Basque separatist terrorist organization vowed to cut off all contacts with terrorists in 2006.


Bask, 70, was tried again in June of this year for participating in a terrorist organization after being sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison in 2017. At that time, the accused was hiding from the police.

Ternera hid 17 years in France, where he was captured in the Haute-Savoie region in May 2019 as part of a Franco-Spanish operation. He then pretended to be a writer from Venezuela.

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Despite Wednesday’s acquittal of the 2011-2013 charges, Ternera will have to appear again in a French court in mid-September, this time accused of belonging to the Basque terrorist organization ETA in 2002-2005.

Antonio Urrutikoetxea IAN LANGSDON / PAP / EPA

The main purpose of the activities

ETA dissolved itself on May 4, 2018 in the French town of Cambo-les-Bains. Ternera, in a previously recorded statement, announced “the complete dissolution of the Basque organization’s structures”. The main goal of ETA in its 60 years of terrorist activities was the creation of an independent Basque state in northern Spain and south-west France. According to the Ministry of the Interior in Madrid, 853 people died as a result of its terrorist actions, half of whom were military and police officers, and half were civilians.

ETA members have often collaborated with other terrorist organizations such as the Irish IRA, the Italian Red Brigades and the armed Palestinian groups. They were also supported by the regime of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and the communist authorities of Cuba.

Ternera was the leader of ETA in the 1980s, when one of the organization’s bloodiest attacks took place – in 1987, in Zaragoza, an attack on the Civil Guard barracks was carried out, killing 11 people, including five children.

Antonio Urrutikoetxea at the seat of the Parisian court IAN LANGSDON / PAP / EPA

Retreat from armed struggle

The process of abandoning armed struggle, which started in the late 1990s, resulted in the declaration of the ETA authorities in March 2016, in which the leaders of the organization announced their intention to disarm and hand over their arsenal. In April 2017, ETA provided the French services with the addresses of its 12 firearms warehouses, and in April 2018, Basque separatists handed over two crates of firearms in Bayonne.

The then Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, announced that despite the liquidation of ETA structures, members of this separatist organization would have to bear responsibility for acts of terror carried out on the territory of the country.

Main photo source: IAN LANGSDON / PAP / EPA

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