Hostage freed by Eta after 341 days

The Basque businessman Jose Maria Aldaya, who was kidnapped by Eta separatists nearly a year ago for failing to pay protection money or "revolutionary tax", was freed early yesterday morning. During more than 11 months of captivity, Eta's longest-held hostage became Spain's most powerful focus for popular revulsion against the Basque separatists.

Political leaders greeted the news with relief and joy, and hailed the persistence of anti-Eta peace movements who mobilised ever larger demonstrations in Mr Aldaya's support several times a week since his kidnap last May. None the less, the decision to free him was Eta's own, taken after the organisation had received up to 150m pesetas (pounds 750,000) ransom from the industrialist's family, and owed nothing to either mass demonstrations or police manhunts.

"It was unfortunate," remarked Jose Maria Aznar, the leader of the conservative Popular Party, who is due to form the new Spanish government, "that Mr Aldaya's freedom was consequence of a decision of his captors and not achieved through the actions of the security forces."

Mr Aldaya was freed in wooded hills near the Basque town of Elgoibar in the early hours of yesterday and made his way to a restaurant where he telephoned the police and his family. A spokesman said he was in good physical and mental shape, and that he would give a full account of his ordeal tomorrow.

Security officials believe Mr Aldaya's seizure and long detention was orchestrated by a special Eta kidnap squad that operated separately from other Eta commands. This squad remains intact, despite mammoth police operations in recent months and well-trumpeted detentions of Eta suspects and seizures of arms caches.

Mr Aldaya, 54, whose transport company is based near the Basque city of San Sebastian, is a prosperous businessman but far from a financial mogul. His family said Eta's ransom demands far exceeded their means, and this is thought to have been the main obstacle to obtaining his earlier release.

The operation marks not only a logistical coup for Eta, but also a financial one. The Interior Ministry suspect that fear among Basque entrepreneurs caused by the kidnapping prompted a flow of contributions to Eta's coffers by those eager to avoid a similar fate.

Eta still holds Jose Antonio Ortega Lara, a prison officer from the Basque town of Logrono captured in January. The organisation says it will release him only when the government agrees to return more than 500 Eta prisoners dispersed around Spain to prisons nearer their homes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Direct Sales Consultants - OTE £65,000 - £100,000

£65000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national direct sales com...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Consultant - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Can you sell? Want to earn over...

Recruitment Genius: Partitioners / Carpenter / Multi Skilled Tradesmen / Decorator

£28000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Various opportunities are avail...

Recruitment Genius: Trade Marketing Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company leads the market i...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum