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Suspected Basque ETA leader arrested in France

The French police, the French Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) [official website, in French] and the Spanish Civil Guard [official website, in Spanish] arrested [press release, in Spanish] Isaskun Lesaka, one of the three suspected leaders of the Basque separatist movement Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) [Global Security backgrounder; JURIST news archive], early on Sunday. Lesaka and another member of the ETA were arrested in a hotel in Macon, France, about 70 kilometers from Lyon. They were both armed at the time of the arrest, and the police also found computer equipment and a stolen car. The ETA is listed as a terrorist group in the EU and the US and has engaged in a 40-year fight for independence in northern Spain and southwestern France that has claimed more than 800 lives, according to an AFP report. Last October, three members of the ETA read a statement declaring that the ETA would end the violence. Lesaka is believed to be one of the members who made the declaration.

Since January, 24 suspected ETA members have been detained. Spain has been prosecuting ETA members for more than a decade. In July Scottish police arrested [JURIST report] Benat Atorrasagasti Ordonez, an ETA member who was wanted by Spanish authorities since 2001. Ordonez was a "carrier" for ETA between 1996 and 2001, responsible for transporting people and materials between Spain and France. Last year a Spanish court sentenced [JURIST report] a former military leader for the group to 105 years in prison for ordering the murder of a Socialist political leader and his bodyguard. Two months earlier a group of ETA prisoners released a statement [JURIST report] calling for the ETA to stop violence and commit to a truce. In 2010 the Spanish government also accused the Venezuelan government [JURIST report] of aiding ETA members in a plot to kill Colombian government officials in Spain. A Spanish judge also found earlier that year that a member of ETA had attempted three times [JURIST report] to kill Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in 2001.

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