THE former head of Basque terror group ETA’s political wing has been arrested in France after 17 years on the run.
José Antonio Urruticoechea Bengoechea, known as Josu Ternera, has been arrested in the south east of France, at 7.30 this morning by the French police acting on information from the Guardia Civil.
Urruticoechea, who fled Spain in 2003, joined ETA in the 1980s, where he became head of the group’s political apparatus. In 1989 he was arrested in Bayonne and a year later he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
After his release he was expelled by the French authorities and handed over to Spain on 4 May 1996. The Spanish National Court prosecuted him for belonging to an armed gang, then in June 1996 he was charged with a 1986 bombing in Madrid in which 12 Guardia Civil officers died.
In 1998, he was elected a member of the Basque Parliament on the lists of the separtist Euskal Herritarrok political party.
He was summoned to testify on two occasions before the Supreme Court to clarify whether he gave the order for a car bombing on the headquarters of the Guardia Civil in Zaragoza in 1987, in which 11 people died, including five children.
He fled Spain in November 2002 on being charged with the attack and since then he has been missing. In 2018 he voiced a video announcing the disbanding of ETA.
ETA killed more than 800 people during its campaign of violence before declaring a ceasefire in 2011.