Friday, February 15, 2008

France: 30 Years for ETA Commando Chief

PARIS (AP) — A man alleged to head commando units for the Basque separatist group ETA was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison by a French court Wednesday.

Ibon Fernandez de Iradi was found guilty of trying to kill a French police officer on patrol in the city of Pau in November 2001. The gendarme, Gerard Larroude, survived despite eight bullet wounds in the head and throat.

The court sentenced Fernandez de Iradi's suspected accomplice, Antonio Agustin Figal Arranz, to 10 years in prison.

Fernandez de Iradi, also known as "Susper," was arrested in 2002, but he mysteriously disappeared from a police station in the southwestern French town of Bayonne two days later while waiting to be transferred to Paris.

Fernandez de Iradi and two other suspected ETA activists were caught nearly a year later in the town of Mont de Marsan, near France's southern border with Spain.

Spain's then interior minister, Angel Acebes, described the capture as "a far-reaching operation of enormous importance." He described Fernandez de Iradi as "the boss of the gunmen, the killers, the commandos who carry out the attacks, the car bombs."

ETA, which stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom, has been fighting to create an independent state for Basques in northern Spain and southwestern France since the late 1960s. Its bombs and shootings have claimed more than 800 lives.

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