ETA suspect in custody in Belgium

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A man suspected of being a member of the Basque separatist group ETA is in preventive custody in Belgium, the prosecutor in charge of anti-terrorism said Saturday.

The investigative magistrate was acting on a European warrant issued by Spain, and the case will rest with Spanish judicial authorities, spokeswoman Lieve Pellens told AFP, noting that the man was convicted in 2000 and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

While Belgian authorities did not identify the suspect after he was arrested Friday, a Spanish police source identified him as Ventura Tome Queiruga, wanted for attacks three decades ago.

Spanish media said Queiruga, 55, had been on the run after being convicted of several bombings between 1983 and 1985.

Friday's arrest was the first since ETA declared an end to armed activity on October 20, though the group stopped short of saying it was giving up its weapons or disbanding.

The suspect is to appear before a Belgian court tasked with confirming the investigative magistrate's decision, with appeals possible.

The use of European-specific arrest warrants rather than international ones for suspects wanted in Europe has speeded up what was a lengthy procedure that could take months, Pellens said.

Now suspects can be arrested and sent back to the issuing country in as little as 10 days.

© 2011 AFP

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