French court jails ex-head of ETA political wing


PARIS — A French court Friday sentenced the former head of the political wing of the Basque separatist group ETA to 20 years in prison, and banned him from French territory.

Mikel Albizu Iriarte, alias “Antza”, was sentenced along with his partner, Soledad Iparragirre Genetxea, alias “Anboto”, who is considered another former ETA leader. She also received a 20-year jail term.

Iriarte and Genetxea were sentenced after a month-long trial along with eight other people who received terms ranging from three to 16 years.

After the sentencing, the defendants and family members in the Paris courtroom raised their fists and chanted for Basque independence.

The couple and their accomplices were arrested in 2004 after a major operation that was described by the Spanish government of the time as an historic blow against ETA.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

In September the group announced it had halted “armed offensive actions” and later called for international mediators, but the Spanish government said this fell short of the required unconditional ceasefire.

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