PARIS, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) — A former leader of the separatist group ETA was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison on Wednesday for criminal association with terrorists.
The Paris appeals court sentenced Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea, also known as “Josu Ternera,” in absentia. Urrutikoetxea has been permanently banned from France and remains in hiding.
Ternera, recognized by several ETA members as one of the primary leaders of the Basque separatist organization, was involved in document forging, stealing, terrorist attacks and assasinations. French media said Ternera was the chief political leader of the ETA until 2006.
Ternera was arrested in the southwestern French city of Bayonne in 1989 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison for forging docments and murder.
After being deported to Spain, he was released in 1996, but a few years later, was found guilty of a previous attack killing 11 people and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Ternera is likely to return to the ETA leadership and was a potential negotiator with the government, Spanish media reported.
In early September, the ETA, reportedly responsible for hundreds of deaths over decades of operations, announced a truce, saying it was seeking “a democratic solution to the conflict.”
The Spanish governemnt, however, took cautious notice of its announcement. Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said a truce was “insufficient” and demanded permanent disarmament of the group.