Basques separatists convicted over Madrid airport bombing

21st May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Three suspected Basque separatists were sentenced to lengthy jail terms Friday for a bomb blast at Madrid's airport that killed two people and torpedoed peace talks with the government.

Mattin Sarasola, Igor Portu and Mikel San Sebastian, all suspected members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, were convicted of "terrorist murder" for involvement in planting a bomb in a van that exploded in a car park of the airport on December 30, 2006.

Two Ecuadorian immigrants who were sleeping in their cars were killed and 41 people slightly injured.

The court sentenced each of them to 1,040 years in prison each, although they will not spend more than 40 years in prison, the maximum term for terrorist crimes in Spain.

The court also ordered them to pay 700,000 euros in compensation to the family of one of the victims and 500,000 euros to the other.

Portu and Sarasola were arrested on January 9, 2008, while San Sebastian was detained some six weeks later in southwestern France.

ETA's former military chief, Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, who was arrested in France in 2008, is also scheduled to go on trial at a later date over the attack, which he is suspected of masterminding.

The bombing led the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to officially end a tentative dialogue with ETA launched six months earlier.

However, contacts between the two sides continued for some months, until ETA officially called off a 15-month-old ceasefire in June 2007.

The government has since taken a hard line against the group, arresting dozens of ETA activists.

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.

© 2010 AFP

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