Jailed Basque leader swaps prison for house arrest in France

PARIS (AP) — A longtime chief of the violent Basque separatist group ETA was freed Thursday from a French prison, swapping a jail cell for house arrest in France with an electronic monitoring bracelet.

José Antonio Urruticoetxea Bengoetxea, known by the alias Josu Ternera, will only be able to leave his residence on pre-agreed days and at hours determined by the Paris Court of Appeal. It ruled on Wednesday that he should be released from Paris' La Santé prison. He was freed Thursday morning.

As well as ordering the electronic tracking bracelet and house arrest for a minimum of six months, the court also banned Ternera from leaving mainland France.

He was arrested in a French Alps town in May 2019 after 17 years on the run. He had been the most wanted ETA member since 2002.

ETA, whose initials stand for “Basque Homeland and Freedom” in the Basque language, killed more than 850 people during a decades-long violent campaign to create an independent state in northern Spain and southern France.

The militant group gave up its arms in 2017 and then disbanded after being weakened by a sustained police effort to dismantle its operations and arrest its leaders.