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47 linked to ETA sentenced

They belong to groups that aided the Basque separatists, Spain says.

December 20, 2007|From the Associated Press

MADRID — Spain's National Court convicted 47 people Wednesday of being linked to the armed Basque separatist group ETA via a network of ostensibly legitimate social and political organizations, and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from two to 24 years.

The judge reading the sentences was interrupted when more than 20 of the accused, seated in a bulletproof chamber, stood with clenched fists and began singing a Basque independence song.

After repeatedly ordering the defendants to stay quiet, Judge Angela Murillo told police to remove them. Five defendants were acquitted.

Murillo said the trial had shown that the youth social group Ekin and its predecessor KAS were an integral part of ETA, an armed group blamed for more than 820 killings since the 1960s in its campaign for Basque independence.

The trial began in late 2005 and stemmed from an eight-year inquiry by Baltasar Garzon, Spain's leading anti-terrorism investigator.

He charged that Ekin and KAS engaged in activities such as fundraising, helping ETA plan attacks and organizing street violence.

Garzon alleged that the defendants belonged to various ETA support groups, some of which have been outlawed.

ETA, whose name is a Basque-language acronym for Basque Homeland and Freedom, declared a cease-fire in March 2006 but grew frustrated with a lack of concessions in peace talks with the government.

The group killed two people in a car bombing of a Madrid airport parking garage last December and declared the truce formally over in June.

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