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Basque militant leader arrested in France

[JURIST] French police on Monday arrested alleged leader of the Basque separatist group ETA [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina [BBC backgrounder] near the country's border with Spain. Aspiazu Rubina is suspected of leading the group's armed operations, and was wanted in connection with the murder of a judge and two Spanish civil guard officers. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero [NYT profile] welcomed [press release, in Spanish] Aspiazu Rubina's capture, calling the arrest a "major blow" against the organization and saying "Today, ETA is weaker and Spanish democracy is stronger." French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the arrest is a demonstration of increased collaboration between French and Spanish authorities. The Guardian has more. AFP has additional coverage.

In recent years, Spain has moved to not only capture and prosecute ETA members, but also to condemn political parties and figures that associate with the group. In October, the Superior Court of Justice of the Basque Country [official website, in Basque] announced [JURIST report] that three of the region's political leaders will stand trial for meeting publicly with members of the Batasuna party [BBC backgrounder], the alleged political arm of the ETA. They were charged [JURIST report] in connection with the meetings in October 2007. In September, the court banned [JURIST report] the Basque Nationalist Action Party (ANV) from taking part in political activities because of its alleged ties to Batasuna.

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