France to allow suspected ETA leader to face trial in Spain

A French court ruled Wednesday that a suspected former leader of the ETA Basque separatist group known as "Txeroki" can be transferred to Spain to stand trial.

txeroki basque eta leader
A Spanish police handout picture from 2009 shows ETA member Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina alias "Txeroki" after his extradition order was received from France. AFP PHOTO / SPANISH POLICE HANDOUT

The Paris appeals court accepted a Spanish request for him to be tried there in September for suspected involvement in a 2002 car bombing in Bilbao, which caused property damage.

The transfer is valid for up to two months.

Also before appeals court judges were 11 European arrest warrants for “Txeroki” — the alias of Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, born in 1973.

The warrants stem from anti-terror inquiries into events between 2002 and 2008.

“Txeroki” is suspected of “belonging to a terrorist organisation” as well as planning or ordering attacks, murders or attempts at both.

While the Paris court requested more information on eight of the warrants, it accepted three of the requests.

One relates to an “attempted terrorist murder” with an explosive package in Bilbao, also in 2002, which targeted the local director of Spain’s RNE national radio.

ETA is estimated to have killed 853 people in its decades-long campaign for Basque independence, which began in 1959 under the Franco dictatorship.

The group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011 and formally disbanded in 2018.

“Txeroki” is suspected of planning a December 2006 truck bomb attack on a Madrid airport that killed two Ecuadorian migrants and wounded several other people, also derailing a peace process that had been set up at the time.

He was arrested near France’s border with Spain in November 2008, when he was the most wanted ETA leader.

After several convictions in French courts, “Txeroki” currently stands to remain in prison until at least 2032.

He has also been sentenced to 377 years’ jail in Spain, including for 21 attempted murders.

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Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

Spanish police have begun wearing body cameras to record their interactions with the public in a move aimed at ensuring greater security that is gaining ground in Europe and the US.

Spain police start wearing bodycams to boost security

The interior ministry said the bodycam was launched Monday and would be “rolled out on a gradual basis to all police officers”, without saying how many were involved in the initial stages.

Spain’s TVE public television said the tiny cameras were being attached to the officers’ uniforms and could be activated either manually or automatically.

The main Spanish police union JUPOL hailed the move on Twitter, saying it was in response to “a request that the union has been making”.

“It will guarantee security, both for us to avoid any kind of misrepresentation of our interventions, as well as for the public, who will be able to clearly see the police’s professionalism and that there is no abuse of power nor excesses,” union spokesman Pablo Pérez told TVE.

Forces in Europe and the United States are increasingly turning to such technology to boost transparency following a string of fatal shootings and other claims against police over the past decade.

“The cameras are being used under public safety protocols in order to record everything that happens in the event of an unwarranted offence during an operation,” Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska told TVE ahead of the rollout.

“If they are activated, it is to guarantee security and really be transparent so that the officers’ actions can be seen and checked,” the minister said.

“This means security for both the police and the public,” he added, suggesting that in time, they would also be available to Spain’s Guardia Civil rural police force.

France began trialling bodycams, known as “pedestrian cameras”, in 2013
before a gradual rollout in 2015 in a move welcomed by police, but greeted with scepticism by rights groups who said there was no guarantee they would be always activated.

Police in London and New York also began pilot schemes in 2014 with credit-card-sized cameras clipped onto their uniforms with the technology gradually deployed over the following years.

But the cameras have had mixed success. The absence of any legal obligation governing their use can also limit their scope to uncover police misconduct.