ETA suspect ‘family man’, court is told

Benat Ordonez is a driver for Wine Importers in Livingston. Picture: Jane Barlow
Benat Ordonez is a driver for Wine Importers in Livingston. Picture: Jane Barlow
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AN alleged ETA terror chief found living a double life in the Capital was regarded as nothing more than a normal family man by shocked residents.

Benat Atorrasagasti Ordonez, 36, appeared before Sheriff Alistair Noble at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday to answer to two European arrest warrants seeking his extradition.

ETA member Benat Atorrasagasti Ordonez. Picture: AFP/Getty

ETA member Benat Atorrasagasti Ordonez. Picture: AFP/Getty

He has sworn to fight his extradition back to Spain and France, and his lawyer, Aamer Anwar, declared that his client refuted all the allegations made against him and opposed his extradition.

Atorrasagasti, who has been on the run since 2001, was arrested at his Sloan Street flat last Friday evening by Lothian and Borders Police officers.

The 36-year-old is accused of being a former forger and weapons smuggler, and of having helped at least ten gunmen cross between France and Spain. He denies committing any crimes in the UK or abroad.

In the area around Leith, which he called home for the last decade, residents were still astonished at his true identity.

Local resident Lewis Thomson, 18, said: “I saw him around the street a couple of times. He was with two kids and a woman, he looked just like any other family man. You’d never have thought he was a wanted terror chief.”

Mrs Nabi, a local shopkeeper, said: “I served him a few times. He seemed a pleasant guy, very mannerly.”

Since arriving in Scotland, Atorrasagasti has been living quietly in Leith and working as a van driver for Livingston Wine Importers. A spokesman for the company said: “We’re all shocked at what has happened. We are not going to comment on anything while the judicial process is ongoing.”

Fiscal depute, Ruth Lunny, told Sheriff Noble that Ordonez had been sentenced to five years in jail by a court in France in his absence on charges relating to terrorism. Spain is seeking his return so he can be put on trial over his alleged membership of ETA.

He has two children, aged two and four, from a previous relationship who he saw each weekend but now has a new girlfriend. His lawyer told the court: “He is a loving father as well as a hard-working man. He has made no attempt to hide his identity. He has been paying his taxes and pays his electricity and gas bills under his own name.”

The Spanish Interior Ministry had said Ordonez rented the ground-floor property for “some time” and that he had been living in the city as a “sleeper” while awaiting for orders from the terror group’s high command.

Mr Anwar, told the court that, despite media speculation, his client “is no threat to the Olympics” in London.

Lothian and Borders Police were also quick to allay any local fears.

A spokesman said: “His arrest was not linked in any way to the Olympic Games, in London, and at no time were the general public in the Leith area of Edinburgh, where he was residing, at risk.”

A full hearing in the case will be held in Edinburgh next month.

david.oleary@edinburghnews.com