Family of suspected ETA boss says death was 'assassination'

11th April 2013, Comments 0 comments

The death of the late suspected leader of Basque separatist group ETA in a Paris hospital last weekend was actually a "political assassination", his family claimed at a press conference in Bilbao on Sunday.

Javier Lopez Pena, who used the alias Thierry, died on March 30 officially after a stroke, but he "was doing fine" when his family visited him, his brother Juanma said.

Lopez Pena "did not die of a stroke and did not suffer a brain haemorrhage" -- his death was a "political assassination", his brother said.

"Even today, we don't know what he died of," added the separatist's sister Begona Lopez Pena, accusing authorities of disinformation.

Lopez Pena, who is believed to have become leader of ETA in 2006, had been behind bars in France since 2008, and was on the run for 25 years before his incarceration.

He is believed to have been one of the masterminds of a 2006 car bombing at Madrid airport that killed two people, ending a ceasefire by the banned group.

His death has renewed calls for better prison conditions for around 700 ETA detainees being held in France and Spain.

On Saturday, several thousand people demonstrated in Bilbao demanding equal treatment for ETA prisoners, who are seen to be treated unfairly in comparison to other detainees.

Last weekend, Lopez Pena's lawyer said she would lodge a complaint over his detention conditions, which she said prevented the Basque from being properly treated for his illness.

Considered a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, ETA announced in October 2011 that it was giving up its armed struggle but has yet to officially disarm.

The organisation is blamed for more than 800 deaths in its quest for an independent Basque homeland over a 40-year period.

© 2013 AFP

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