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Alleged ETA top operative Irastorza on trial in Paris

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Alleged ETA top operative Irastorza on trial in Paris
ETA leader Mikel Irastorza is arrested by French police anti-terror judiciary police on November 5, 2016 in the French Basque country town of Ascain, near the Spanish border. Photo: GAIZKA IROZ/AFP

Mikel Irastorza, long suspected of having been a top operative with Basque separatist group ETA, went on trial in Paris Thursday accused of terrorist association between 2012 and 2016.

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At the time, Spain's interior ministry described him as having been on the run since 2008 and as the "highest ranking member of the terrorist group ETA to have eluded justice".

He is believed to have headed up the group's logistics cell before becoming leading figure in the group following the 2015 arrest of suspected former senior leaders Iratxe Sorzabal and David Pla on the French side of the border.

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Material discovered at the house where he was found -- some of it encrypted -- included documentation on ETA as well as on weapons and explosives and how to make false ID papers, the court heard.

Authorities are also reported to have matched Irastorza's DNA to material related to 2012 and 2013 investigations into ETA suspects.

Irastorza described himself in the dock as having been a militant separatist but denied being a member of any group.

He acknowledged having attended a 2012 meeting with ETA members and to have received "training", but not of military in nature.

He added he had backed the peace process which culminated in a ceasefire from 2011 declared by the group, ending its violent decades-long campaign for an independent Basque homeland in northeast Spain and southwest France.

In 2017, ETA, blamed for the deaths of at least 829 people, announced a total disarmament and the following year declared it had disbanded.

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