The Spanish National Court on Friday convicted [judgment, PDF; in Spanish] three members of the Basque separatist group ETA [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on charges relating to a 2006 bombing in Madrid. Mattin Sarasola, Igor Portu, and Mikel San Sebastian were found guilty of murder, attempted murder, and taking part in a terrorist attack and were each sentenced to 1,040 years in prison. The men were also ordered to pay 1.2 mil euro (USD $1.48 mil) in damages to the families of their victims. The lengthy sentence is largely symbolic as Spain imposes a 40-year limitation on prison sentences for terrorism convictions. The 2006 Madrid bombing ended a ceasefire [AP report] that had been declared by ETA. 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.
The Spanish government continues to actively pursue charges against ETA. In March, the court accused [JURIST report] the Venezuelan government of aiding ETA in a plot to assassinate members of the Colombian government in Spain. In February, the Interior Ministry of Spain [official website, in Spanish] said that it took into custody the suspected ETA leader [JURIST report], along with two other people who are believed to be senior members of the group. 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. Last June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] upheld [JURIST report] Spain's ban of Basque political groups Batasuna and Herri Batasuna for their alleged ties to ETA.