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Basque separatist Swiss release ETA activist

Pro-independence Basque demonstrators demanding the return of all ETA prisoners in a protest in Bilbao, northern Spain in January 2017

(Keystone)

Switzerland has freed Nekane Txapartegi, a convicted member of the Basque separatist group ETA, who had been facing extradition to Spain.

The Federal Justice Officeexternal link said on Friday that extradition custody for Txapartegi had been cancelled after Spain withdrew its extradition request. A Spanish court ruled on Thursday that her penalty was time-limited. It has repealed the extradition request and international arrest warrant, Txapartegi’s lawyer Olivier Peter told the Swiss News Agency. 

The withdrawal of the extradition request reached the Swiss authorities one day later, the justice office confirmed.

Peter had hoped that she would be freed from custody in Zurich on Friday. This eventually happened on Friday evening, according to the Swiss news agency and photos on Twitter. swissinfo.ch received further confirmation of the information from human rights organisation augenauf external linklate Friday evening.

Swiss authorities arrested Txapartegi in Zurich on April 16, 2016. She had been living under an assumed name in Switzerland since 2009. Txapartegi had fled Spain that year after a court sentenced her to six years and nine months in jail for supporting ETA, a sentence that was later reduced to three-and-a-half years.

Spanish court documents said she had acted as an intermediary for the Basque separatist group and had carried out various missions in Europe and South America. Txapartegi never appealed against the Spanish court’s judgements.

Txapartegi was denied asylum in Switzerland after the authorities rejected her claim that she was tortured into confessing while in Spanish custody. Txapartegi had been appealing against both the extradition and asylum decisions and was backed by many NGOs, human rights organisations and political parties in both Switzerland and Spain.

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, earlier this year urged Switzerland to reverse its decisionexternal link to extradite Txapartegi.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ilj

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