No freedom for suspected Basque militant held in Quebec

A suspected Basque terrorist will remain in custody after an immigration commissioner ruled Wednesday that he poses a flight risk.

A suspected Basque terrorist will remain in custody after an immigration commissioner ruled Wednesday that he poses a flight risk.

Canadian immigration officials told an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing that evidence from Spain shows Ivan Apaolaza Sancho, 36, had ties to the terrorist group ETA.

Spanish officials accuse Sancho of being a member of the group and participating in terrorist activities, including several car bombings, one of which killed a Spanish army officer.

Sancho has been jailed since his arrest by the RCMP on June 20.

He is detained in a wing of the Rivières-des-Prairies detention centre in northeast Montreal, a jail generally reserved for high-risk criminals.

Claude Beaupré, a lawyer representing the government, told Immigration and Refugee Board commissioner Louis Dubé that a mountain of paper evidence indicates Sancho was indeed linked to the ETA, a Basque nationalist organization, from 1991 onwards.

Beaupré also said Sancho had ties to Victor Tejedor Bilbao, 51, another alleged Basque terrorist living illegally in Canada.

Bilbao, whoalso goes by the first name Bittor,was served with pre-removal risk assessment papers by the Citizenship and Immigration Department at a detention review last week in Vancouver.

The stone-faced Sancho, speaking to the hearing via video link, refused to answer questions regarding his alleged criminal past or the accusations awaiting him in Spain.

Sancho's lawyer, William Sloan, said his client faces serious charges in Spain and he instructed Sancho not to respond to any questions regarding his alleged criminal activities.

Sloan says he will submit a motion saying evidence presented by the Canadian government is insufficient and the case should be thrown out.

Ruling on Sancho's status coming

Sancho applied for refugee status in Canada following his arrest in the summer. Before officials can evaluate his request, they must determine if he is admissible to Canada.

Dube is to rule on Sancho's status in Canada in mid-January.

"There's no evidence at all; all there is are accusations," Sloan said outside the hearing room.

"This is a disguised extradition," Sloan added. "For reasons that are their own, they don't want to proceed with an extradition."

"In that context, I think he should have the same constitutional protections against self-incrimination as anyone who is facing criminal charges," Sloan added.

Sloan says Sancho faces torture from authorities if he's returned to Spain.

"It's an indication that he's afraid to be tortured if he is returned to Spain —that is what his refugee claim is about," Sloan said.

Sancho and Bilbao were arrested within weeks of each other in Canada during the summer.

Sancho had been living in Canada since 2001 under false aliases and using fake documents.

He lived mainly in the Vancouver, rooming initially with Bilbao and in a number of apartments before moving to Montreal in late 2006.

With files from the Canadian Press