Suspected ETA chief charged with murder in Spain

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Jurdan Martitegi is accused of setting off a car bomb attack that killed a Spanish policeman in May 2008.

MADRID – The suspected military chief of the Basque separatist group ETA, arrested in France at the weekend, was charged Tuesday with murder over a bombing that killed a Spanish policeman in 2008.

A judge charged Jurdan Martitegi and three other ETA members with carrying out the car-bomb attack on 14 May 2008 at a barracks of Spain's Civil Guard paramilitary police force in the northern Basque Country.

The bombing killed one Civil Guard officer and wounded four others.

Martitegi, considered the head of ETA's military operations, was captured in southwestern France on Saturday along with two other suspected members of the Basque separatist group.

A further six suspects were detained in Spain's northern Basque Country later Saturday as part of the same operation.

Tuesday's ruling, a copy of which was seen by AFP, said Martitegi and another ETA suspect took the van loaded with explosives to front of the barracks.

"Arriving in front of the barracks, he got out of the van before it exploded" and then fled the scene in another vehicle, it said.

Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Monday Martitegi and the eight other suspects held at the weekend had been planning an attack to coincide with the investiture of the next Basque regional government.

"The documents seized ... lead us to believe that (Martitegi) was going to provide a van with explosives to an ETA unit," he told a press conference during a visit to London.

"Everything suggests that Martitegi wanted to hand over this van full of explosives to this unit and that ETA ... was going to use it on the occasion of the investiture of the next Basque regional government."

According to a French judicial source, Martitegi and the two others were to be transferred Tuesday from Montpellier to Levallois outside Paris, where anti-terrorist services were to take custody of them.

Earlier in April, ETA warned that the incoming regional government of the Basque Country lacked "democratic legitimacy" and would be its "priority target".

The leader of the Basque Socialist Party, Patxi Lopez, is set to become the head of the regional Basque government following local elections in March.

Lopez will be the first Basque government leader who unequivocally backs the region's unity with Spain since it was granted wide autonomy in 1979.

The Basque region had been run for nearly 30 years by the moderately nationalist PNV party on a platform that flirts with independence.

Martitegi, who is suspected of staging three attacks in Spain, is the third top ETA leader arrested in the past five months.

His presumed predecessor, Aitzol Iriondo, was arrested in France on 8 December. Iriondo had himself replaced Miguel de Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, who was captured in France on 17 November.

AFP / Expatica

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