On 20 March, 2001, ETA murdered Josu Elespe's father, Froilán, making him the first Socialist councillor murdered by the terrorist group. The councillor was having a drink in a bar before going home for lunch when a terrorist walked in and shot him from behind.


Name: Josu Elespe

Age: 36 (1975)

Profession: Account supervisor in a private company.

Family status: Married. One daughter.

Place of origin: San Sebastián (Gipuzkoa).

GROUP: Relatives of victims.


- Josu’s father, Froilán Elespe had been deputy mayor for the PSE-EE in the town of Lasarte-Oria in Gipuzkoa since the municipality was established in 1987.

- On 20 March, 2001, ETA murdered Froilán Elespe, making him the first Socialist councillor murdered by the terrorist group. The councillor was having a drink in a bar before going home for lunch when a terrorist walked in and shot him from behind.


“On 20 March, 2001, at 14:40, ETA shot my father in the back of the head and killed him inside a bar in Lasarte-Oria (Gipuzkoa). My father was standing at the bar in order to buy cigarettes and have a drink before going home for lunch. A young man approached from behind and shot him in the head while another was waiting outside to ensure their get-away. My father died on the spot. The only witness, the bartender, had his back to my father. My father had been deputy mayor for the PSE in this municipality since it was established in 1985 (I can’t remember the exact date). He had never been threatened, as far as we knew, and he had never really felt threatened”.
“At that time, ETA was attacking politicians who belonged to the PP mainly and my father was the first PSE councillor murdered. Since then, all elected PSE officials were assigned bodyguards. In the year 2001, the PP was governing Spain and the PNV was governing the Basque Country. The situation was extremely tense with significant political differences between the parties, mainly due to terrorism. Political parties were sharply divided, and that division between Basque nationalists and non-nationalists could be seen in the acts of condemnation and rejection after my father’s death. In a way, some used terrorism and its consequences as a political weapon, and others blatantly ignored the consequences of terrorism“.
“I remember perfectly that the day of the attack I was in Ataun. I received a phone call from a friend telling me that there had been an attack in Lasarte in which my father was involved. He didn’t give me any details. I called home and the line was busy. When I got in my car I heard the radio confirm that indeed there had been an attack against my father, and that he had died. I remember the trip to Lasarte like a nightmare, with an intense feeling that nothing was real. I reached the town and I found it cordoned off. What I had heard on the radio was true; I had just walked into hell”.
“My life, since that day, was completely different. After the first few weeks of confusion, and when faced with the reality of what had happened, I began to experience feelings that were unknown to me: anger, resentment, frustration, anxiety. I felt lost and without direction. I was confused, terrified at what lay ahead and forced to deal with a situation that I couldn’t control”.
“At that time I was 25, I had returned from England full of ideas, projects, and ETA shattered all that”.
“I left my job and started a postgraduate course. I needed a routine that kept me from thinking. I finished the course and got a job again. I was constantly changing jobs for 3 or 4 years; I couldn’t find satisfaction in any of them when, in fact, it was me that was dissatisfied”.
“At family level, I had lots of support, especially from my girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife and the mother of my daughter. I took refuge in friends and family, people I trusted who lived through my father’s murder from day one. I isolated myself from a lot of people, and only found comfort when travelling, something I have always enjoyed, but that from that day something that became a necessity”.
“For many years I was affected by the places where I went and the people I met. Even so, I was lucky to meet people of the highest human quality who lent me their support and understanding in the worst times. Anonymous people who are one level above the average people of the complicated and contradictory Basque society. I still remember the immense number of telegrams and letters of support that we received in the first weeks, and that comforted us”.
“ETA turned me into a bitter, angry person and a dissatisfied, immature brat for 3 or 4 years. I had to go from being a youngster to becoming a man with no stages and no period of adaptation”.
“I decided to face the reality of what had happened. I chose to go into it all, right to the bottom, with all the consequences, to be able to be free”.
“My life, during those years, was like a journey through the desert without water or a compass. Rationally, I decided to stop hating my father’s murderers and their world, for ethical reasons, but also as a personal matter, because hatred hurts the person who hates. Hatred held me back and prevented me from returning to what I was before the attack”.
“Today, I do not hate my father’s murderers or their world. I managed to overcome that hatred and that was a huge satisfaction and personal liberation. My life is not what it used to be, and I am not the person I used to be. I used the dark years to digest all that rage and frustration, to strengthen myself, to downplay the problems, and to value people and life”.
“I feel good; there are outstanding issues that I hope to overcome with time. All these years have allowed me to mature and realise my principles. I’ve done things and overcome fears I never thought I would be able to. I have faced a traumatic event and I have come out victorious”.
“I live a quiet life that I find fulfilling, I enjoy my hobbies, I have a steady job and a family and magnificent friends I appreciate and to whom I am enormously grateful for their help”.
“I’m not a victim of anything. I don’t like the word, and I am unwilling to have this qualifier applied to me for the rest of my life. I still live in the Basque Country. I am not affected by living where I live and seeing what I see. I’m still travelling, but without the urgency”.
“I want to live to be 100, I have no longing for the time lost. I believe those years of darkness helped me become who I am now”.
“I have a 2 year old daughter. She is my present and my future. I want her to grow up being happy and contented; not conditioned by what happened to her father. My best legacy and contribution to the fight against violence in the Basque Country is and will be to educate her to be respectful with people who are different and not to hate. This is my goal, and as I managed to win my battle of hate against ETA; someday I’ll be able to tell my daughter what happened to her grandfather with pride and serenity in my eyes, and I will be able to convey the idea that life is wonderful. The same idea I always saw in my father’s eyes and smile”.