France to allow suspected ETA leader to face trial in Spain

France to allow suspected ETA leader to face trial in Spain
A Spanish police handout picture from 2009 shows ETA member Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina alias "Txeroki" after his extradition order was received from France. AFP PHOTO / SPANISH POLICE HANDOUT
A French court ruled Wednesday that a suspected former leader of the ETA Basque separatist group known as "Txeroki" can be transferred to Spain to stand trial.

The Paris appeals court accepted a Spanish request for him to be tried there in September for suspected involvement in a 2002 car bombing in Bilbao, which caused property damage.

The transfer is valid for up to two months.

Also before appeals court judges were 11 European arrest warrants for “Txeroki” — the alias of Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, born in 1973.

The warrants stem from anti-terror inquiries into events between 2002 and 2008.

“Txeroki” is suspected of “belonging to a terrorist organisation” as well as planning or ordering attacks, murders or attempts at both.

While the Paris court requested more information on eight of the warrants, it accepted three of the requests.

One relates to an “attempted terrorist murder” with an explosive package in Bilbao, also in 2002, which targeted the local director of Spain’s RNE national radio.

ETA is estimated to have killed 853 people in its decades-long campaign for Basque independence, which began in 1959 under the Franco dictatorship.

The group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011 and formally disbanded in 2018.

“Txeroki” is suspected of planning a December 2006 truck bomb attack on a Madrid airport that killed two Ecuadorian migrants and wounded several other people, also derailing a peace process that had been set up at the time.

He was arrested near France’s border with Spain in November 2008, when he was the most wanted ETA leader.

After several convictions in French courts, “Txeroki” currently stands to remain in prison until at least 2032.

He has also been sentenced to 377 years’ jail in Spain, including for 21 attempted murders.


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