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France police arrest alleged Basque separatist leader

[JURIST] French police arrested Jurdan Martitegi Lizaso [El Pais backgrounder, in Spanish], the alleged leader of Spain's Basque separatist group ETA [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], and two others during Saturday raids in which Spanish police also arrested six other suspected members of the group. Officials alleged that the group was planning a terrorist attack [El Pais report, in Spanish] in Spain, as part of their efforts for Basque independence, and that guns and bomb-making materials were also found during the raids. Spanish Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero [official profile, in Spanish] applauded the capture [press release, in Spanish] of the men, thanking French authorities for their cooperation and warning that the country would continue aggressively to seek the capture of ETA members.

In February, Spain's Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] unanimously banned [JURIST report] the Basque separatist political groups Democracy 3 Million (D3M) and Askatasuna [orders, PDF, in Spanish] from participation in the coming March elections. In January, a Spanish court dismissed the case against Basque Regional Prime Minister Juan José Ibarretxe [official profile]. He and the two leaders of the Basque socialist party were charged [JURIST report] with illegally communicating with the banned Batasuna party [BBC backgrounder], the political wing of the ETA. In November, French authorities arrested [JURIST report] alleged former ETA leader Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina [BBC backgrounder] near the country's border with Spain. 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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