The Interior Minister, Jorge Fernández Díaz, agreed on Friday to allow a terminally ill convicted ETA kidnapper to request early release from Spain's High Court.
Iosu Uribetxeberria Bolinaga (pictured), who is currently 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 to the High Court for early release.
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 a hospital in San Sebastián, 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 recently been on a hunger strike, is terminally ill with cancer, and according to hospital sources may have as little as 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.
Fernández Díaz made it clear in a television interview this week how he felt about this latest round of pressure from inmates, saying "Obviously, neither hunger strikes nor any other type of iniciative have affected us in the past nor will affect our decisions in the future". He also added that neither ETA nor Uribetxeberria Bolinaga had "spared any thought for José Antonio Ortega Lara, who was effectively buried alive for 532 days" during his kidnapping ordeal.