Man accused of being Eta terrorist fights extradition after being arrested in Edinburgh
A MAN alleged to be a high-profile member of the Basque separatist group Eta has opposed bids to extradite him to mainland Europe.
Benat Ordonez, 36, was arrested during a police raid in the Leith area of Edinburgh on Friday night and is wanted by the authorities in both France and Spain.
Ordonez, who has lived in the UK since 2001, was sentenced to five years in prison in his absence by a court in Paris in 2008.
The father-of-two, who denies he is a terrorist, appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today for an initial extradition hearing.
The court heard he is wanted under two extradition warrants, from France and Spain. The Spanish authorities are seeking his return to the country so that he can stand trial there.
His solicitor, Aamer Anwar, told Sheriff Alistair Noble that Ordonez “does not consent to the extradition proceedings and denies any wrongdoing in France or in Spain”.
He added that, despite media speculation, Ordonez “is no threat to the Olympics” in London.
Sheriff Noble remanded the accused in custody, saying the alleged offences were “of very great seriousness”.
A full hearing in the case will be held in Edinburgh next month.
Sheriff Noble read out a summary of the extradition warrants in court.
Spain is seeking Ordonez’s return so he can be put on trial over his alleged membership of, and collaboration with, an “armed organisation”.
It is claimed that, in 2000, he was part of a group which helped move materials and weaponry from France to Spain.
It is also suggested that he was involved in gathering information on politicians and police officers, the court heard.
The court further heard that in 2008 in France, Ordonez was sentenced to five years in jail in his absence. It centred around an alleged conspiracy to carry out acts of terrorism. It is said that he was an activist member of Eta and was involved in recruitment and training for the organisation.
Sheriff Noble told Ordonez that the previous conviction could be set aside and he can have a new trial if he returns.
Around 10 members of the public, apparently supporting Ordonez, were in court for the 20-minute hearing today.
Mr Anwar sought bail for his client, who is originally from San Sebastian, in northern Spain.
The lawyer said unmarried Ordonez, who has two young children from a previous relationship, has been living in the UK over the last 11 years under his real name.
“He is a loving father, as well as a hard-working man,” said Mr Anwar, who stated that his client had been working as a van driver.
He went on: “Mr Ordonez has made no attempt to conceal his identity. He has a National Insurance number, he has been paying council tax, paying electricity bills and gas bills.
“He has been living a normal life in the UK and he has not come to the attention of the authorities.
“He is not considered to be any threat in the UK. My understanding is that he has not committed any crime in the UK and, despite media speculation, he is no threat to the Olympics.
“In addition, he does not accept he committed any offence in France or Spain.”
Sheriff Noble refused bail, saying there was a risk that Ordonez could try to leave the country.
Speaking after the hearing, Mr Anwar said Ordonez will vigorously oppose any attempt to extradite him.
He said outside court: “Mr Ordonez denies he is a terrorist. He has lived in the UK since 2001 under his real name.
“He wishes to state that he is not wanted for any crimes in the United Kingdom and nor is he considered a threat to the United Kingdom.”
A further preliminary hearing will be held on July 30, with a full hearing in the case to be held on August 2.
Lothian and Borders Police said Ordonez’s arrest was not linked to the Olympic Games.
A spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police can confirm Benat Atorrasagasti Ordonez has appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on two European arrest warrants originating from 2001 and 2008, which were issued in Spain and France respectively.
“His arrest in Edinburgh on Friday followed information about his possible whereabouts being recently passed by the Guardia Civil to Lothian and Borders Police.
“His arrest was not linked in any way to the Olympic Games, in London, and at no time were the general public in the Leith area of Edinburgh, where he was residing, at risk.”