Ex-chief of ETA gets 377-year sentence

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A court in Spain Friday sentenced the former head of the Basque separatist group ETA, Garikoitz Aspiazu, to 377 years in prison for 20 attempted terrorist assassinations.

Considered a leader of ETA's hardline wing, Aspiazu, known as 'Txeroki', was arrested in a pre-dawn raid on a rented apartment in the French Pyrenees spa resort of Cauterets in November 2008.

He was transferred to Spain in May of this year on a temporary basis to face trial.

The National Court convicted him of 20 counts of attempted terrorist murder and one of causing damage, the ruling said.

In one case cited in the ruling, he was involved in an attempted assassination in a bomb attack of the mayor of the northern town of Portugalete (nord), Esther Cabezudo.

Police also suspected he was involved in a bomb attack at the car park on Madrid airport in December 2006 that killed two Ecuadorian immigrants.

The bombing torpedoed tentative peace talks between ETA and the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

A judge in Paris charged him in connection with the December 2007 killing of two undercover Spanish police officers in southwestern France.

ETA, classed as a terrorist group by the European Union, is blamed for 829 deaths during a four-decade campaign of shooting and bombing for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southern France.

On January 10, ETA announced a permanent, verifiable ceasefire. But Spain's government rejected the offer, demanding the group go further and disband entirely.

The organisation, weakened after years of arrests of its senior leaders, has not committed an attack on Spanish territory since August 2009.

© 2011 AFP

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