15 Spanish police on trial for alleged ETA suspect torture

25th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Fifteen Spanish policemen went on trial in Spain's northern Basque region on Monday charged with torturing two ETA separatists while they were in custody, court sources said.

The newspaper El Pais said on its website that the accused denied the charges at the start of trial, in the city of San Sebastian, saying the two suspects were injured as they were trying to escape arrest.

The 15 officers from Spain's paramilitary Guardia Civil police force are accused of torturing and injuring the two, Igor Portu and Mattin Sarasola, following their arrest in January 2008 in the Basque Country.

Last May, Portu and Sarasola were sentenced to 1,040 years in prison each for their involvement in an ETA bomb attack that killed two people at Madrid's airport in December 2006.

The day after their arrest, Portu was taken to hospital suffering from numerous injuries including a broken rib.

He later alleged he had been the victim of torture by police and a Spanish judge opened an investigation.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said at the time that the officers had "scrupulously" respected the anti-terrorist laws and had to "use force" to arrest the suspects.

Anti-torture groups have called demonstrations for Friday in San Sebastian against the accused officers.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

The Spanish government has vowed to eradicate ETA unless it unilaterally and unconditionally renounces violence and disarms.

It has rejected a series of ETA statements in past weeks offering a ceasefire under the right conditions.

© 2010 AFP

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