ETA suspect asks political asylum in Belgium: lawyer

26th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

A suspected member of the Basque separatist group ETA, wanted in Spain on weapons-related charges, opposes his extradition from Belgium and is requesting political asylum, his lawyer said Thursday.

Luis Maria Zengotitabengoa, 29, who was arrested in the coastal city of Oostende on Saturday, made the asylum request with the foreigners' office of the Belgian interior ministry, his lawyer Paul Bekaert told AFP.

"The Geneva Conventions say that if there is a risk of a violation of human rights, you can ask for political asylum. Many reports show that human rights are not respected in Spain regarding the Basques," Bekaert said.

"He does not want to be extradited to Spain but he wants Belgian justice to handle his dossier," he said.

Spanish authorities have described Zengotitabengoa as one of the most wanted suspected members of the armed separatist group, saying he was part of ETA's "reserve commando."

Belgian authorities said Zengotitabengoa was arrested in a hotel in the Flemish city of Oostende just as he prepared to flee to Britain.

He was wanted on a European arrest warrant for "his links to an operation attempting to transport ETA's explosives into Portugal," according to the Spanish interior ministry.

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 Bermillio de Sayago, in the western region of Zamora.

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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