The Basque Government has raised to 43 the number of proposals for granting third degrees for ETA prisoners by adding another four in April, including Joseba Arregi Erostarbe, ‘Fiti’, Aitor Esnaola and Mikel san Argimiro, to whom The National Court already revoked months ago a first attempt to progress to the semi-liberty regime.

In addition to these three prisoners for crimes of terrorism, in April the Basque Executive has progressed to the third degree Joseba Andoni Borde, according to the information compiled by the Penitentiary Policy Observatory of the Association Victims of Terrorism (AVT), consulted by Europe Press.

In this way, the Basque Government already adds 43 progressions to the third degree of ETA prisoners, of which the National Court Prosecutor’s Office has revoked ten, including the second attempt by ‘Fiti’, 77, and who returned to prison in the middle of April.

Since 2018, with the arrival of Pedro Sánchez to the Presidency of the Government and Fernando Grande-Marlaska to the Ministry of the Interior – on which Penitentiary Institutions depend – 27 progressions to the third degree have been agreed for ETA prisoners, a prerogative that remained in hands of the Basque Executive for the transfer of prisoners to this community and the transfer of jurisdiction in prison matters.

The National Court has twelve appeals from the Public Ministry pending resolution and another five have already been inadmissible, according to data from the AVT. The ten cases already revoked are: ‘Fiti’, Aitor Esnaola, Gorka Martínez Ahedo, José Ignacio Bilbao Gaubeca, Mikel San Argimiro, Javier Atristain Gorosabel, Juan Carlos Subijana Izquierdo, Ainhoa ​​Barbarin, Asier Carrera and Asier Rodríguez López.

In addition, in the month of April there are three other conditional releases –Jon Crespo, Gorka Vidal and Sebastián Echániz–, so the figure rises to 26 since 2019. The AVT also reflects in its Observatory that the ETA member Faustino Marcos was released to serve his sentence.

The Central Court of Penitentiary Surveillance of the National Court sent Arregi Erostarbe, ‘Fiti’, the historic and veteran ex-leader of ETA, back to prison this same month of April, after the appeal of the Prosecutor’s Office against the third degree that the Basque Government a week before, according to what legal sources informed Europa Press and reported ‘Etxerat’.

The decision was adopted five months after the National Court revoked the progression to the semi-liberty regime. The historic leader of ETA was arrested in 1992 in Bidart along with the other two heads of the then leadership of the terrorist organization, Francisco Múgica Garmendia, ‘Pakito’, and José Luis Álvarez Santacristina, ‘Txelis’.

In November, after the National Court revoked the first proposal and ‘Fiti’ returned to prison, the Basque Minister of Justice, Beatriz Artolazabal, pointed out that the National Court “suggested” applying a new third degree, but alluding to “humanitarian issues”. The proposal, she said, was included in the same order where the semi-liberty that the regional Executive had approved was rejected.

The order alluded to article 114.4 of the Penitentiary Regulation, which states that progression to third degree can be done for “humanitarian issues and personal dignity, taking into account the difficulty of committing crimes and their low risk” for those prisoners who are “very seriously ill with incurable, according to medical report”.

In the case of Aitor Esnaola Dorronsoro, it is also the second attempt to progress to the semi-liberty regime, after the one granted by the Basque Executive in May 2022. He is a former ETA member who was part of a strategic project to store and distribute explosives to the operating groups, and which was dismantled in 2011.

Aitor Esnaola entered prison in April 2011 and is serving an 18-year sentence, three-quarters of which will be satisfied in 2024. When he benefited from the rapprochement with Basque prisons due to the end of the dispersal policy, Penitentiary Institutions reported that this ETA member He accepted the legality and had sent a letter in which he expressed his rejection of violence and acknowledging the damage caused.

Mikel San Argimiro, for his part, has been in prison for more than 20 years and at the beginning of 2021 he had served three quarters of his sentence. The inmate was sentenced, among other crimes, for attempting to assassinate former socialist ministers José Barrionuevo and Matilde Fernández, as well as for placing a car bomb near the Santiago Bernabeu on May 1, 2002 when a match was being played between Real Madrid and Barcelona.