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Basque wanted by Spain ‘flees Northern Ireland’: source

A Basque separatist convicted of 25 murders and wanted by Spain is believed to have left Northern Ireland after jumping bail, the BBC and a source close to the investigation said on Thursday.

Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos, 54, a former senior ETA figure who faces prosecution in Spain for glorifying terrorism, was on bail and living in Belfast under conditions ahead of an appeal against his extradition.

He was required to report every day to a police station, stay at a known address and observe a night-time curfew, although he was allowed to work at two cafes as part of the bail arrangements.

According to the BBC website, Stephen Ritchie, for the Spanish authorities, told the High Court in Belfast on Thursday: “He has not reported to police since 25 March, the day before his case last came before this court.

“He has not been at his home address when police called, or indeed the two named cafes.” He added: “There is good reason to believe he may well have left the jurisdiction.”

His extradition was ordered in March, when a judge rejected his claims that he would not receive a fair trial.

A source close to the investigation told AFP it was “taken as read that de Juana has gone”.

But the source said his lawyers were baffled by his apparent decision to flee because they believed de Juana had a strong case against extradition.

By choosing to skip the country, “he’s totally exposed and vulnerable wherever he goes” and he will be arrested on a European arrest warrant wherever he surfaces, the source added.

His lawyers said there had been nothing to indicate de Juana was about to skip the country, although he had been “detached, quite aloof” and “businesslike” overall, the source said.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of more than 820 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.