Expatica news

Victim held for 532 days testifies against ETA

10 June 2005

MADRID – A prison civil servant who spent 15 months being held hostage by ETA terrorists told a Spanish court on Friday he has forgotten the details of his ordeal “in order to continue living”.

Jose Antonio Ortega Lara was forced to spend 532 days trapped in a 3.5m room in Mondragon after being captured at his home on 17 January 1996.

When he was finally freed on 30 June 1997 by the Civil Guard, he was in a poor physical state, having lost 23 kilos.

On Friday, public prosecutors asked for 32 years in prison for each of two suspects being tried for the hostage taking. The first is Julian Achurra Egurola, known as Pototo, and the second is Jose Luis Aguirre Lete.

Giving evidence against the men, Ortega Lara appealed to the court not to make him “go into details”.

‘Pototo’ and Aguirre Lete are accused of handing over 30 million pesetas to other ETA members so that they could hire a building for a hide-out.

Jesus Maria Uribetxeberria, Xabier Ugarte, Jose Luis Erostegi and Jose Miguel Gaztelu, who were sentenced to 32 years in 1998 for their part in the crime, received the money and hired a building where they created a small factory.

Initially the building was used to hide arms, but later, claim the prosecution ‘Pototo’ ordered them to turn the hide-out into a place to keep a hostage.

A second room was created, 3.5 squared metres beneath the main floor of the business.

In 1995, Pototo and Aguirre Lete ordered the group to take a prison civil servant hostage in order to put pressure on the government to move ETA prisoners to new prisons in the Basque region.

For months, the ETA group watched several prison civil servants, finally picking Ortega Lara because he was a Popular Party activist.

The prosecution told the court the government was warned Ortega Lara would only be released if their demands were met.

ETA was prepared to kill Ortega Lara or let him die. The band would have killed him on 5 July if he hadn’t been rescued, said prosecutors.

The trial continues.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news