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Gravely ill ETA inmate can ask for early release

Interior clears way for terrorist to appeal to High Court judge

The Interior Ministry agreed on Friday to clear the way for a terminally ill convicted ETA kidnapper to ask the High Court to release him early.

Iosu Uribetxeberria Bolinaga, who is serving a 32-year sentence for the 1998 kidnapping of prison director José Antonio Lara, was granted third-degree status by the ministry, which enables him to apply for early release before the High Court.

A health panel at the Zaballa prison in Álava, where Uribetxeberria is being held, has recommended the ETA terrorist be allowed to appeal to the court after reviewing a medical report issued by Donostia Hospital which concluded that the inmate’s condition was “very serious” and “irreversible.”

“The secretary general believes that, despite the various crimes committed by the convict, it is without doubt that his serious illness, and its possible evolution, including the characteristics of his treatment, extraordinarily outweigh the inmate’s danger to society and practically annuls any possibility that he will commit more crimes,” reads the panel’s report. The ministry recommends conditions be placed on the convict, such as avoiding all public declarations and keeping away from the victims of his crimes.

Uribetxeberria, who has been on a hunger strike, is terminally ill with cancer, and according to hospital sources may just have about six months to live. ETA inmates in Spain and France have joined Uribetxeberria on hunger strikes in an attempt to put pressure on the authorities.

A planned march for Saturday in Bilbao by the pro-ETA inmates group Herrira was banned by High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz on Friday.

It will be up to the High Court to determine whether Uribetxeberria will be released.

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