Former ETA chief gets 83-year jail sentence: court

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A Spanish court on Monday sentenced a former military chief of the Basque separatist movement ETA to 83 years in prison for killing a police officer in a 2001 attack in Madrid.

The ruling came a week after ETA declared a ceasefire in their flagging, decades-long campaign of bombing and shooting for a homeland independent of Spain.

Gorka Palacios Aldai, who was arrested in France in December 2003, was found guilty of slaying police officer Luis Ortiz de la Rosa in a "terrorist assassination", according to the judgement of which AFP has seen a copy.

On September 5 ETA reaffirmed "its commitment to finding a democratic solution to the conflict" in the northern Basque region.

But Spain's government rejected the announcement as totally inadequate and demanded ETA renounce guns and bombs forever in its battle for an independent homeland.

ETA, banned as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, is blamed for 829 deaths in its 42-year campaign for independence for the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.

It announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006, and shortly afterwards Zapatero's Socialist government said it was launching tentative peace talks with the outfit.

But in December 2006 the group set off a bomb at a car park at Madrid's airport, killing two men from Ecuador, and in June 2007 it formally called off its ceasefire citing a lack of concessions by the government in peace talks.

Since then, the government has taken a hard line against the group and its political wing, Batasuna, arresting dozens of members.

© 2010 AFP

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