MADRID (Reuters) - A top Spanish court ruled on Thursday that a Basque ETA separatist jailed for his involvement in several kidnappings and murders could be freed because he has cancer.
Jesús María Uribetxeberría Bolinaga last week abandoned a two-week hunger strike that had prompted around a hundred fellow ETA prisoners to refuse food to press for his release.
ETA, which wants independence for Basque lands in northern Spain and southern France, laid down its weapons last October after four decades of armed struggle that resulted in more than 800 deaths. But it remains a thorn in the side of the center-right government.
Judge Jose Luis de Castro of the Audiencia Nacional court, who visited Bolinaga on Tuesday, ruled that he could leave the Basque Country hospital where he is currently being held.
However, Bolinaga will not walk free immediately, as the public prosecutor's office has five days to appeal. If freed, Bolinaga would also be subject to certain conditions, such as not going near the homes of his victims.
A medical report commissioned by the Audiencia Nacional said Bolinaga could be treated in prison, although another report described his illness as "very serious, irreversible and incurable".
Spain's Association for Terrorism Victims immediately condemned the ruling, saying it would hand a letter to the Interior Ministry on Friday to try to have it revoked.
(Reporting by Teresa Medrano and Clare Kane; Writing by Clare Kane; Editing by Kevin Liffey)