Sun, Jul 01, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Basque terrorist fugitives nabbed by British police

AFP, LONDON

A composite of undated file photographs released by the Spanish Ministry of the -Interior shows Basque terrorist ETA members Antonio Troitino Arranz, left, and Ignacio Leron Sanchez, who were arrested on Friday in London.

Photo: EPA

British police on Friday arrested two members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, including a former fugitive convicted of 22 murders.

Antonio Troitino Arranz, 55, and Ignacio Lerin Sanchez, 39, were arrested in an armed pre-dawn raid in Hounslow, west London on suspicion of ETA membership and possession of explosives.

They later appeared separately at an extradition hearing at London’s Westminster Magistrates Court and were remanded in custody until a second hearing at the same court on July 20.

Speaking through an interpreter, the two men, who were arrested under Spanish warrants, answered “no” when asked whether they accepted their extradition to Spain.

Troitino, a member in the 1980s of ETA’s Madrid unit, which carried out some of the group’s bloodiest attacks, had been on the run for more than a year.

He fled Spain after a legal bungle set him free from a 2,700-year jail sentence for killing 22 people.

Troitino, also known as Antxon, was originally arrested in 1987 and sentenced to more than 2,700 years even though the maximum stay in prison in Spain is 30 years.

He was freed on April 13 last year after requesting that the six years he had spent in prison before sentencing be discounted from his term.

Spain’s National Court subtracted those six years from the 30-year maximum jail time instead of the actual 2,700-year sentence because the law was not clear on the matter.

However, after an appeal by prosecutors, the court agreed a week later that the six years should have been discounted from the actual sentence. By then, however, Troitino had disappeared.

Spanish prosecutors now want him to return and serve the rest of his 30-year-sentence.

One of the Madrid unit’s most notorious acts was a car bomb attack on a police bus in the capital on July 14, 1986, which killed 12 officers and wounded more than 50 others.

“Troitino was the one who set off the bomb,” the Spanish Ministry of the Interior said in a statement.

Lerin has been wanted by Spain since 2007 for membership of an armed gang and illegal possession of explosives — offences carrying maximum prison terms of 12 and 10 years respectively the lawyer representing the Spanish authorities told the court.

He was a member in 2007 of ETA’s “Urederra” unit, which was allegedly responsible for transferring and storing weapons and explosives, as well as recruiting new members, according to the ministry.

He fled Spain on March 28, 2007, after his brother Joseba Lerin, a member of the same unit, was arrested.

ETA renounced violence on Oct. 20 last year, but has not bowed to Spanish demands that it disarm and disband.

Blamed for more than 800 killings in four decades of a campaign to create a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France, the group has not committed an attack on Spanish soil since August 2009.

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