4 February 2004
PARIS – A man accused by Spanish authorities of acting as a hitman for an ETA-linked group called the Autonomous Anti-capitalist Commandos was arrested by French police Wednesday in southern France.
Police said Jose Antonio Zurutuza Sarasola was detained in the French Basque town of Biriatu.
Zurutuza, 42, is accused of killing a Spanish businessman and the man’s bodyguard in the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian in 1982. He is also suspected of involvement in at least three other killings in Spain in the early 1980s, as well as kidnapping and extortion.
The arrest came as Spain’s Interior Minister, Angel Acebes, attacked ETA Wednesday for extorting money from businesses in the tourist industry.
Acebes said ETA sent threats to companies involved in the tourism industry in Catalonia and other parts of Spain, in a similar campaign to that it carried out in 2003.
The minister did not go into detail about the threats, but said it had made some “put a political price on getting peace” – an illusion to the scandal over a meeting organised between a leading Catalan politician and ETA.
Meanwhile, police in France said statutes of limitations, as well as the fact that Zurutuza married a Frenchwoman and obtained French nationality, may complicate extradition proceedings, sources told EFE. They said it is possible he will be prosecuted in France rather than in Spain.
Zurutuza was described as a former member of the “Comandos Autonomos Anticapitalistas,” a guerrilla-terrorist organisation linked to the Basque organisation ETA.
Zurutuza reportedly fled to France in 1984. He resided for a while in Venezuela, but was eventually expelled from that country along with several other alleged members of ETA.
In France, he ran an import company ostensibly dealing in distribution of Spanish and Peruvian products, but authorities suspect the firm was a front for ETA-linked operations. EFE
Meanwhile, in another development, ETA issued a statement Wednesday confirming that it held a meeting with the left-wing Catalan leader Jose Lluis Carod-Rovira.
They said Carod pledged that “support for the freedom of the Basque Country and the resolution of the conflict”.
Carod resigned after a newspaper exposed his secret meeting with the terrorists in France in December and January.
The scandal has damaged the Spanish left-wing in the run-up to the general election to be held on 14 March.
The statement from ETA did not detail who took part in the controversial meeting but it did say that no agreement was made with Carod or his party, the left-wing ERC.
ETA attacked in the statement those who had “condemned the contacts with the leader of the ERC” as those who deny having had contact with ETA but now applaud the procedure of the Catalan party.
Carod made an appearance Tuesday at one of the shows in Barcelona Fashion Week but refused to answer reporters questions about the scandal.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news