Belgian judges clear ETA suspect's extradition to Spain

27th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Belgian judges authorised on Friday the extradition of a suspected member of the armed Basque separatist group ETA to Spain, but his attorney said he would appeal the decision.

Luis Maria Zengotitabengoa, 29, one of the most wanted ETA suspects in Spain, was arrested in the coastal city of Oostende on August 21 on a European arrest warrant issued by Madrid.

A panel of judges in Bruges decided that the extradition under the warrant was "enforceable", Erwin Dernicourt, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office, told AFP.

Zengotitabengoa will remain in jail in Bruges during his appeal. If his challenge is rejected, he could be extradited in about two months, the spokesman said.

His attorneys said he would appeal the panel's decision.

"(Spanish) justice believes that he is a faithful member of ETA but this is not true at all. He has never been convicted and has never hidden, not even in Oostende," one of his attorneys told Belga news agency.

One of his lawyers, Paul Bekaert, has said that Zengotitabengoa wanted Belgium to grant him political asylum.

Spanish authorities say Zengotitabengoa was part of ETA's "reserve commando".

He is accused of helping to rent a minivan that was packed with explosives and later intercepted during a routine check on January 9 in northwestern Spain.

ETA is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and United States and is held responsible the deaths of 829 people in more than 40 years of violence for the independence of the Basque region.

© 2010 AFP

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