Assassination-plot suspect loses extradition fight

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A SUSPECTED Basque terrorist has lost his High Court bid to halt his extradition to Spain to stand trial for terror-related offences – including the attempted assassination of the King of Spain.

Two senior judges overturned a magistrates’ court decision that had blocked Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui, 44, being extradited on the specific charge of attempting to kill King Juan Carlos in 1997.

Deputy Senior District Judge Daphne Wickham, sitting at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, ruled at a hearing in January that he could be extradited on a series of terror charges, but not on the attempted assassination charge after she accepted a defence submission that it was unsustainable in Spanish law.

But yesterday Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Griffith Williams ruled that extradition could take place on all charges.

Mr Justice Griffith Williams said: “The district judge should not have concerned herself with the issue of whether the appellant could be convicted in Spain of the offence of attempted assassination and so her decision must be quashed.”

Gogeaskoetxea’s QC Edward Fitzgerald told the High Court at a hearing last month that his client faced a real risk of “a flagrant denial of justice” in Spain because the accusations against him were based on the confessions of a co-defendant denied proper access to a lawyer.

Gogeaskoetxea, an alleged member of the terrorist group Eta, is wanted on eight arrest warrants.

They include a series of charges such as placing grenade-launchers aimed at Madrid Barajas Airport and a police station in Spain.

The case is important because, under the international rule of specialty, a country that requests extradition is allowed to prosecute a fugitive only for the crimes for which an extradition order is granted.

Mr Fitzgerald argued that Gogeaskoetxea’s removal should be blocked because the Spanish authorities had in recent years violated the rule of specialty in terrorism cases.

Gogeaskoetxea, a computer program designer, was arrested in Cambridge last July after a Spanish national recognised him at a sports club in the city.

He is alleged to have become a member of Eta in 1996 and then to have become a party to a plan to kill the King of Spain during a visit to the the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao on October 18 1997.