ETA fugitive fled Northern Ireland for Venezuela: report
Spain's intelligence services believe that a Basque separatist convicted of 25 murders and who disappeared in Northern Ireland has now fled to Venezuela, a Spanish radio station reported Monday.
Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos received help from the IRA before fleeing to Venezuela to escape extradition to Spain on charges of glorifying terrorism, the private radio station Cadena Ser said, quoting anti-terrorism sources in Spain and France.
Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said he had no information on the report.
"I have no idea. This is the first news I have. Of course, the embassy has not told us anything," he told a press conference.
De Juana Chaos, former senior member of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, was freed from a Spanish jail in August 2008. He had served around 20 years for the killing of 25 people in 11 attacks blamed on ETA.
But hours after his release, he allegedly made a statement in support of ETA that brought accusations of "glorifying terrorism".
In November 2008 he was arrested in Northern Ireland after surrendering to authorities there who were acting on an extradition request from Spain. But he has not been seen since failing to report to police on March 25.
Spanish authorities suspect members of the Irish Republican Army and its political wing Sinn Fein hid De Juana Chaos for about one month in Northern Ireland before he fled to Venezuela, said Cadena Ser.
"There is a large community in Northern Ireland organised by Sinn Fein youths that supports" ETA members, said the radio, which is part of Spain's Prisa media group that includes the leading daily El Pais.
Police in Northern Ireland last month arrested another suspected ETA member, Fermin Vila Michelena, who is wanted in Spain in connection with several attacks.
The Spanish intelligence service, CNI, believes De Juan Chaos may have traveled to Venezuela to be with his girlfriend in the country.
But it said he may not be welcome among the community of former ETA members in Venezuela.
"After the recent hunger strikes staged by De Juana Chaos police have evidence that he is 'persona non grata' both in the leadership of the armed group and in leftist (Basque) nationalist circles," Cadena Ser said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in March rejected allegations from a Spanish judge that his government has helped ETA members link up with members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.
The most deadly attack involving De Juana Chaos in took place in July 1986 when 12 members of the Civil Guard police force were killed in a bomb blast in Madrid.
© 2010 AFP