Businessmen criticises counterterrorism efforts

4th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

Businessmen arrested over alleged payments to terrorists say they are victims rather than ETA collaborators.

4 August 2008

SAN SEBASTIAN - Efforts by Spanish counterterrorism officers to crack open ETA's financing channels are drawing criticism among the Basque business community following the interrogation of several prominent businessmen in recent weeks.

Key business leaders thought to have paid money to ETA have been hauled in for questioning by officers since the arrest of the Basque terrorist group's suspected leader, Francisco Javier Gómez Peña, alias Thierry, in France on 20 May.

During a search of his Bordeaux apartment, police found documents detailing the receipt of almost EUR 400,000 since the start of this year. The files included receipts naming several Basque businesses as the source of the funds.

The discovery prompted an immediate probe into the companies named, with officers using unusually harsh tactics, including detaining the owners of several of the firms. None have so far been charged.

In its 40-year campaign to create an independent Basque homeland through violence, ETA has typically relied on two methods of financing: kidnapping for ransom and intimidating businesses into paying a so-called "revolutionary tax". Those who fail to pay are threatened with death, or harm to their loved ones or property.

Representatives of the Basque business community see themselves as victims, who are now being cast as ETA collaborators by police.

In a statement responding to the recent interrogations, a Basque business association spokesman described the detainees as "victims who deserve support and respect".

Among them is Jesús Guibert, a renowned Guipúzcoan business leader who was kidnapped by an ETA splinter group in 1983, and José Antonio Jainaga, the CEO of the Sidenor steel company.

[El Pais / G. Gastaminza / Expatica]

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