Man wanted in Spain for ETA ties appears in Venezuela court

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Arturo Cubillas, a suspected member of the Basque separatist group ETA and wanted by Spain, appeared in court Wednesday in Venezuela as a witness and not a suspect, prosecutors said.

There was no official word on his comments, but his attorney Marino Alvarado and court sources said the 46-year-old Cubillas, a national of both Venezuela and Spain, appeared before state prosecutor Richard Monasterios.

Authorities here opened the case at the request of Cubillas, who is sought by Spain and suspected of being a key member of the Basque separatist group operating from Venezuela.

In March, a judge in Spain issued a series of arrest warrants for suspected ETA members in Venezuela including Cubillas, as well as members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) which is suspected of aiding in ETA killings in Spain.

Venezuela's attorney general Luisa Ortega has said Cubillas could not be extradited because he is a naturalized Venezuelan and the country's constitution prohibits the extradition of its own citizens.

But Spanish prosecutors rejected that argument and recommended Monday that National Court judge Eloy Velasco "ask the Spanish government to request that Venezuelan authorities extradite Cubillas."

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government said Friday it would file an extradition request for Cubillas if the National Court asked for it.

Cubillas arrived in Venezuela in late 1989, part of a group of 11 ETA members given political asylum under an agreement between the Spanish and Venezuelan governments.

He was given a senior in the administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2005, in the agriculture ministry.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

© 2010 AFP

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