The ETA member Natividad Jáuregui, alias Jaione Y Pepon, wants to end his days behind bars. But the judges of the National Court are not willing to take risks and release this 63-year-old woman, who has been in provisional prison since Belgium handed her over in 2020 after almost four decades on the run. According to a resolution of November 26, to which EL PAÍS had access, the court rejects all the arguments put forward by the defense to request his release from prison: “There is a high risk of escape,” the magistrates conclude after Jáuregui, to claim that he is not going to escape, stated that he has family ties with the Basque Country and that, “he even has a job offer in case” that he could leave the Alcalá de Henares prison (Madrid).
The National Court is forceful in its ruling. “It is unquestionable that the current availability of the appellant is produced not by her own will, but in spite of it,” reads the brief of the Third Section of the Criminal Chamber. In this sense, the shortlist of magistrates – made up of Félix Alfonso Guevara, Carlos Fraile and Ana María Rubio – recalls the difficult and long process that required their extradition, which Belgium opposed for years and which was not carried out until the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemned the Central European country for not cooperating with Spain.
Jáuregui, member of the Vizcaya command In the eighties, she is accused of the death of Lieutenant Colonel Ramón Romeo, assassinated by ETA in 1981. The sentence of the National High Court that sentenced three of her companions to 28 years in prison for the crime —Enrique Letona, Sebastián Echániz and José Antonio Borde – included in the proven facts the presumed participation of Jaione in the attack. According to that resolution and the investigators, the ETA member and another terrorist (Francisco Javier Zabaleta, who died in 1982 in a shootout during another attack) shot the soldier at around 10 a.m. on March 19, when he was leaving to listen to mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Begoña from Bilbao. The investigations indicate that Jáuregui approached the victim from behind and shot him in the head. She denies it.
Like the investigating magistrate, the Criminal Chamber emphasizes that there is a sufficient “collection of indictors” against the ETA, who remained on the run from Spain for decades. Born in 1958 in San Sebastián, Jaione is an old acquaintance of the Police. According to the Ministry of the Interior, in 1978 he fled to France for the first time after being linked to the activities of the command Iskulin. Later, he returned to the Peninsula and joined the Vizcaya command. But, again, after allegedly committing several attacks, he returned clandestinely to France, from where he went to Mexico. There it was located in 2002, but it disappeared again. “She returned clandestinely to Europe and settled in Belgium, where she would be arrested in the city of Ghent in 2013,” the security forces emphasize.
The National Court then promoted the process to achieve the delivery of Jáuregui, prosecuted in 2005 for the murder of Lieutenant Colonel Romeo. But he ran into the Belgian authorities. Despite the issuance of two international arrest warrants, the courts of that country rejected the extradition, considering that Spain could violate the fundamental rights of the ETA woman and set her free. In 2017, the military’s family finally resorted to Strasbourg, which condemned Belgium, thus reactivating the delivery that would culminate in November 2020.
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“The execution order [de su extradición] It was delayed for several years, precisely because of the opposition of Jáuregui. With such precedents, given the appellant’s roots in Belgium and the few links it maintains with our country, and taking into account the seriousness of the crimes that are the object of this case, it seems beyond any doubt that there is a high risk of flight “, the magistrates of the Third Section insist. In their resolution, the judges also ruled out the possibility of releasing her on bail or forcing her to appear from time to time in court, as requested by her lawyer. According to the court, it is not enough to guarantee that he does not escape.
The life of Natividad Jáuregui in Belgium generated a special indignation among the victims of ETA, where she spent her days “like a queen” when she was “a murderer with all the letters,” according to the family of Ramón Romeo. The ETA member had settled in Ghent, where she worked in different cafes and restaurants, and collaborated in the production of a cookbook. When she was arrested in 2013, her profile on social media was packed with dozens of haute cuisine dishes and recipes. He even opened his own premises and “lived without hiding”, detailed the Belgian public radio television RTBF when his extradition was approved.
The defense of the incarcerated woman denies, for its part, its participation in the attack. According to her appeal, during the investigations that have been carried out since her delivery by Belgium, no DNA or fingerprint reports have been added to the summary. However, both the Criminal Chamber and the investigating judge recall the different testimonies that imply it. The order that decreed the entry of Jáuregui into prison pointed out that two of his former companions of the Vizcaya command, Enrique Letona and Sebastián Echániz, directly incriminated her in their police statements.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.