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CRIME

Judge summons Basque ETA ex-bosses over 1997 murder

A judge has named three former ETA leaders as suspects over their alleged role in the group's 1997 kidnapping and murder of a politician that traumatised Spain, court documents showed Friday.

Judge summons Basque ETA ex-bosses over 1997 murder
Crowds at 2013 demo to protest the death of ETA victim Miguel Angel Blanco. (Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP)

All three, who were part of the leadership of the now-defunct armed separatist group, have been formally named on charges of “terrorist kidnapping and murder”, the documents show.

The decision was announced almost exactly 25 years after ETA militants snatched Miguel Angel Blanco, a local councillor with the right-wing Popular Party (PP), on July 10, 1997.

They gave the government 48 hours to meet their demands but when the deadline expired, they shot the 29-year-old twice in the head and dumped him. He died a day later.

His murder shocked Spain to the core, sparking mass nationwide protests that ended up being a turning point in the fight against ETA.

Court documents seen by AFP identified the three as Javier Arizcuren Ruiz, alias “Kantauri”, Maria Soledad Iparraguire, or “Anboto”, and Miguel Albisu Iriarte, also known as “Mikel Antza”.

The move came a week after Manuel García Castellon, a judge with Spain’s top criminal court, received a police report identifying the members ETA’s executive committee and outlining their possible involvement in the 1997 kidnapping and murder.

Following the breakup of ETA’s leadership in southwestern France in 1992, the group drew up a “destabilisation strategy” which included identifying as targets politicians from Spain’s two main political parties, the PP and the ruling Socialists.

All three suspects were part of the executive committee, which “planned and carried out” that strategy and in 1997 decided to kidnap a member of the PP, which had just recovered office from the Socialists.

“In 1997, the kidnapping of a Popular Party councillor was an absolute priority for ETA’s ‘directorate’, an action that had to be carried out that summer,” the judge wrote.

As leaders, the three suspects held “enough control and decision-making power over the group’s terrorist activity that they could have either decided not to kidnap the victim or prevented the kidnapping’s ultimate outcome.. by giving the order to release him,” it said.

“The terrorist action by the Donosti commando cell could not have taken place on its own, it was carried out following the orders, and with the express authorisation of.. the executive committee.”

All three suspects are now in their early 60s and have spent long years behind bars for the bloodshed committed while part of ETA.

ETA is estimated to have killed 853 people during 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.

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TAX FRAUD

Spanish court orders Shakira to stand trial in tax fraud case

A Spanish court has ordered Colombian music superstar Shakira to stand trial in a tax fraud case at a date yet to be determined, court documents showed on Tuesday.

Spanish court orders Shakira to stand trial in tax fraud case

Prosecutors in Barcelona said in July they would seek a prison sentence of more than eight years against the singer and a fine of nearly €24 million ($24 million), after she rejected a plea deal over accusations of tax evasion.

They accuse the 45-year-old “Hips don’t Lie” songstress of defrauding the Spanish tax office of €14.5 million ($14.7 million) on income earned between 2012 and 2014.

Prosecutors say Shakira moved to Spain in 2011 when her relationship with FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique became public but maintained official tax residency in the Bahamas until 2015.

The couple, who have two children, announced their separation in June. On September 19, a Barcelona court ordered the singer to stand trial for six tax crimes, according to a court ruling made public on Tuesday.

In an interview published in Elle magazine last week, Shakira said she was confident she had behaved correctly and did not owe the Spanish tax office anything.

“These accusations are false,” she said.

“While Gerard and I were dating, I was on a world tour. I spent more than 240 days outside Spain, so there was no way I qualified as a resident,” she added.

“The Spanish tax authorities saw that I was dating a Spanish citizen and started to salivate. It’s clear they wanted to go after that money no matter what.”

Shakira’s lawyers have said that until 2014 she earned most of her money from international tours, moved to Spain full time only in 2015 and has met all her tax obligations.

The singer says she has paid €17.2 million to Spanish tax authorities and has no outstanding debts.

She argues Spanish prosecutors are trying to claim money she earned during her international tour and from her participation on the show “The Voice”.

She was a judge on the show in the United States, when she says she was not yet resident in Spain.

A Barcelona court in May dismissed an appeal from the singer to drop the charges.

Shakira was named in one of the largest ever leaks of financial documents in October 2021, known as the “Pandora Papers”, among public figures linked to offshore assets.

With her mix of Latin and Arabic rhythms and rock influence, three-time Grammy winner Shakira scored major global hits with songs such as “Hips don’t Lie”, “Whenever, Wherever” and “Waka Waka”, the official song of the 2010 World Cup.

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