Ex ETA terror boss talks of ‘regrets’ for victims

The former military chief of the Basque separatist group ETA on Monday expressed "regret" for the victims of the banned group's violent campaign for a homeland straddling France and Spain.

Miguel de Garikoitz Aspiazu Rubina, also known as Txeroki, said ETA "regrets the damage" caused to victims as he appeared along with nine other suspected ETA members in a Paris court on charges of kidnapping a Spanish couple and their son in France in 2007.

A Spanish court in 2011 sentenced him in absentia to 377 years in prison for 20 attempted assassinations.

Txeroki, who was arrested in France in 2008, read out a statement in the Paris court calling on the French government to seize the opportunity to resolve the Basque conflict.

ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths in a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for independence for the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Considered a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, it announced in October 2011 that it was giving up its armed struggle. But it has yet to formally disarm, and the Spanish government has refused to hold talks with its leaders.

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Spain demands that Eta apologise and disband

Spain on Saturday demanded that Basque separatist group Eta apologise for decades of violence and then disband "definitively" after it provided France with a list of arms caches to finalise a promise to disarm.

Spain demands that Eta apologise and disband
Police forces and demining team officers identify weapons handed by ETA in Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle on April 8. Photo: IROZ GAIZKA/AFP
In a statement, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the arms cache move signalled the “definitive defeat” of Eta, blamed for 829 deaths dating back to 1968.
Describing the separatist organisation as “terrorists”, Rajoy reiterated the group could expect no government favours as a result and “still less, impunity for their crimes”.
“The only logical response to this situation is (for Eta) to announce its definitive dissolution, to apologise to its victims and to disappear rather than mount media operations to disguise its defeat,” said a government statement.
Madrid added it would not make an “evaluation” of the weapons arsenal until French authorities have neutralised eight caches of weapons containing 120 firearms and three tonnes of explosives in the southwestern Pyrenees-Atlantiques department bordering Spain.
French Interior Minister Matthias Fekl earlier described the move to hand over remaining arms as a “major step”.
In 2011, Eta announced that it had abandoned its armed campaign, but did not give up its weapons. It also continued to insist on amnesty talks for some 360 jailed group members, 75 of them in France.