Expatica news

ETA chief set to appear before court

11 December 2003

PARIS – French authorities said Thursday that the suspected chief of military operations for the Spanish Basque terrorist organisation ETA and three other terrorist suspects arrested were being transferred to Paris to appear before a judge in Paris.

Gorka Palacios, who Spanish and French authorities say was in charge of ETA’s military operations, was detained along with the others on Tuesday in a dawn raid on a home near the south-western French city of Pau.

Also arrested was Juan Luis Rubenach Roig and Iñigo Vallejo Franco, who are believed to have been in the military high command of the armed separatist group.

The other ETA suspect was identified as José Miguel Almendoz Erviti.

Police officials said the four would probably appear Friday before an examining magistrate in Paris probing terrorist crimes.

Under French anti-terrorism legislation, suspects can be held by the police for up to four days after their arrests before they must be handed over to the judiciary.

In the house where the four were arrested, police found documents, false identity papers, four handguns and a machine pistol, 20,000 euros in cash and detonators for explosives.

Authorities said that no explosives were discovered in the search of the premises but that they may be hidden somewhere nearby.

ETA, a Basque-language acronym for Basque Homeland and Freedom, has been fighting for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwestern France since 1968.

Members of the organization which has been designated a terrorist group by the European Union and the US government use southern France as a base for their attacks in Spain that have killed more than 800 people.

The house used by the suspects was rented around a year ago by French woman Garazi Aldana, one of two presumed ETA members arrested last week in the southwestern town of Mont-de-Marsan.

In the operation, French police also detained Ibon Fernández de Iradi, who Spanish security officials say was also an ETA military commander in charge of operations.

According to French authorities, the house targeted in Tuesday’s raid was fitted out with a number of inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags and was probably used as a training base for ETA members.

Officials have speculated that Palacios and the three others may have gathered to discuss the repercusions of Fernánadez de Iradi’s arrest and were planning a campaign of attacks over the Christmas season.

Spanish Interior Minister Angel Acebes claimed that a series of arrests of key ETA suspects meant the authorities had dismantled the group’s military leadership.

But Jacques Poinas, the deputy director of criminal affairs for the French judicial police, warned that in the past ETA had survived similar blows and rebuilt its command and control structure. EFE

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news