A convicted member of the Basque separatist group ETA is to be extradited to Spain from Northern Ireland to face charges of justifying terrorism.

Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos was freed from a Spanish prison on 2 August last year after 21 years served for the murders of 25 people in a string of 11 attacks.

Hours after his release, a letter attributed to him was read out at a gathering of his supporters in Spain's northern Basque Country.

The letter paid homage to 'Txomin', the head of ETA in the 1980s, when De Juana Chaos himself was an active member.

The Association for the Victims of Terrorism filed a complaint in which it said the gathering and the letter constitute 'an apology for terrorism.'

Lawyers for the Spanish authorities are seeking to have him brought back to Spain to face fresh charges.

Judge Tom Burgess, the Recorder at Belfast's Laganside courts, said there was 'no reason to believe that the judicial system of Spain is any less robust in carrying out its duties without fear or favour'.

The Spanish issued a European arrest warrant in November 2008 which was dealt with today at the Recorder's Court.

According to a Court Service spokeswoman, the recorder said the underlying principle of the procedure was that the receiving court should, unless contrary evidence is placed before it, have confidence in the system of the administration of justice in the country seeking the arrest and extradition.

He said he is obliged to place trust in the judicial procedures of Spain unless and until evidence is placed before him that De Juana would not receive a fair trial and would not have his European Convention on Human Rights entitlements respected.

The defence had argued his extradition was issued for the purposes of prosecuting him for his political opinions and, if extradited, he might be prejudiced at this trial or punished because of his views.

His lawyers said the mental condition of De Juana Chaos was such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him, and his extradition would not be compatible with his rights under the European Convention.

De Juana Chaos claimed that the Spanish court had been influenced by the victims' group that lodged the complaint leading to the arrest warrant.

But the recorder said there was no evidence to suggest that the judge in Spain was doing anything other than carrying out his obligation to investigate the complaint.

Lawyers for the Spanish authorities denied he would be exposed to inhumane treatment.

The judge said it was not the case that De Juana Chaos will inevitably be sent to prison on his return.

The recorder concluded that it is for the Spanish judicial authorities to consider the impact of imprisonment, either on remand or conviction, of the mental condition of De Juana Chaos.

He was also satisfied that there was no evidence to suggest that the Spanish authorities would seek to put him on trial for any offence other than that which is included in the arrest warrant, or that it would seek to exceed its sentencing power.

The judge reiterated that no argument had been placed before him that would indicate that De Juana Chaos would not get a fair hearing in Spain.