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France authorities arrest suspected Basque separatist leader

Four suspected members of armed Basque separatist group ETA [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] were arrested [press release, in Spanish] Thursday in France, including suspected ETA leader Mikel Kabikoitz Carrera Sarobe. The officers raided a residential block of the French city of Bayonne and arrested Sarobe along with two Spanish accomplices. Sarobe, a Spanish national, is alleged to be the military commander of the ETA and is the most wanted criminal in Spain, according to the Department of Interior [official website, in Spanish]. One detained accomplice was identified as Arkaitz Aguirregabiria del Barrio, who is deemed to be ETA's second in command and is wanted in France for the shooting of a police officer in March. ETA is listed as a banned terrorist group by the European Union and has been held responsible for more than 800 deaths over the past 40 years.

Spain and France have both made great strides recently in its attempts to limit ETA influence. In March, French prosecutors filed preliminary terrorism charges [JURIST report] against a suspected former leader of the ETA, along with two other people who are believed to be senior members of the group. A judicial source said that the charges against the alleged ETA members stem from preparations to commit a terrorist act, including theft, forgery, and illegal arms charges. That same month, the Spanish National Court sentenced [JURIST report] former Basque separatist party leader Arnaldo Otegi to two years in prison for promoting terrorism in a speech he gave. In January, Spanish judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska ruled [JURIST report] that ETA had tried three times to assassinate former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar in 2001 but had failed. Grande-Marlaska detailed the three assassination attempts [El Pais report, in Spanish] as part of a description of the alleged crimes of ETA leader Pedro Maria Olano Zabala, who was arrested in the Basque region earlier that month.

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