Former ETA head arrested in Spain after controvertial release

19th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

Spanish police Monday arrested a former head of the armed Basque separatist group ETA who was behind its deadliest attack, just weeks after his early release from jail angered victims.

Officers detained Santiago Arrospide Sarasola, known as Santi Potros, in the town of Lasarte in the northern Basque Country, under a court order, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Potros was arrested in France three months after a car bomb attack by ETA in June 1987 at a Barcelona supermarket in which 21 people were killed, the group's deadliest attack.

He was extradited to Spain in 2010 and sentenced to jail for the supermarket bombing as well as other ETA attacks.

Judge Fernando Andreu of Spain's High Court, who specialises is terrorism cases, on Friday ordered his arrest, accusing him of having taken part in another ETA attack in 1987 that killed one person and of involvement in an attempted murder in the previous year.

Potros was not initially due to be released until 2030 but he was freed on December 4 after a court ruled that the 13 years he had spent in jail in France could be deducted from his sentence in Spain.

ETA victims said they felt "humiliated" by the decision, based on European Union rules that require jail time served in other nations to be taken into account during sentencing.

The principle has led to the release of other jailed ETA members in recent weeks.

"The rule of law works. We respect court decisions and in this case it is in applying a court decision that Santi Potros is where he should be according to the law, which is in jail," said Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria.

The arrest of Potros comes after 10,000 people marched through the streets of San Sebastian in Spain's Basque Country on Saturday to protest against the arrest of 16 people accused of belonging to ETA, including 12 lawyers, and to press for "peace" in the region.

The regional Basque parliament on Monday passed a motion condemning the arrest of the 12 lawyers who worked with ETA prisoners.

The motion was introduced by the Basque Nationalist Party, which governs the wealthy northern region.

ETA -- or Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, which means Basque Homeland and Freedom in Basque -- in October 2011 declared a "definitive end to armed activity" but it has not formally disarmed nor disbanded as the Spanish and French governments demand.

The Spanish government refuses to negotiate with ETA, which has been severely weakened in recent years by hundreds of arrests as well as a decline in political and social support in the Basque Country.

ETA's last deadly attack in Spain was a July 2009 car bomb that killed two policemen on the island of Majorca.


© 2015 AFP

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