Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Basque separatist de Juana Chaos refused taxi licence

Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos outside court on Friday
Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos is fighting extradition to Spain

A Basque separatist convicted of 25 murders in Spain has lost his legal battle for a licence to work as a taxi driver in Northern Ireland.

Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos is fighting separate extradition proceedings on allegations of glorifying terrorism.

On Tuesday, a judge said there appeared to be a "blatant attempt to mislead" over his record in his cab application.

His lawyers told Belfast Magistrates Court he had left his violent past behind and wanted a fresh start.

His barrister told the court Mr de Juana Chaos, 54, should be treated as an exception to the rule where ex-prisoners can only apply for taxi licences three years after completing their sentence.

"The offending behaviour purely related to the political theatre," he said.

"The people subjected to the violence were members of the police force in Spain."

Mr de Juana Chaos was released from prison in August 2008.

His lawyer said he has now removed himself from the political conflict and wants to drive specified routes for the West Belfast Taxi Association, where his wife works.

"The reason why my client came here... having committed very serious offences, is to benefit, even if only indirectly, from the way in which this society is prepared to give people who have committed awful offences a chance and a new start," the lawyer said.

He added that 15 ex-prisoners with convictions for "politically inspired violence" already work for the association.

He said there were former prisoners on both side of the community in Northern Ireland who held such licences.

The lawyer said that Mr de Juana Chaos would rather suffer death than be extradited back to Spain.

"If he is returned there he will go on hunger strike," the barrister said.

"He's not someone still full of vim and vigour for any type of armed conflict. He's completely exhausted and wants to get on with his life."

But a lawyer for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency argued that a failure to disclose convictions on the application was an attempt to mislead the department.

The status of the Basque Separatist group ETA's ceasefire was also questioned, with the court told of further bombings and attacks on Spanish police within the last two years.

District Judge Ken Nixon said Mr de Juana Chaos' own legal representatives had accepted he faced "a potentially insurmountable hurdle".

Mr Nixon pointed out the applicant was only released from prison on 1 August, 2008 "in the context of very serious offences... no matter what the theatre may be".

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