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article imageETA member jailed 92 years over plot to kill Spanish king

By AFP     May 6, 2016 in Crime

A Spanish court on Friday sentenced a member of Basque separatist group ETA to 92 years in prison over a failed plot to kill Spain's king at the opening of Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum in 1997.

Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui and another ETA member had planned to lob grenades at then King Juan Carlos during the inauguration in northern Spain, according to the National Court.

But police stumbled upon the plot as the two men, dressed as gardeners, were attempting to hide grenades in flower pots outside the museum five days before its October 18, 1997 opening.

Gogeaskoetxea shot dead a police officer at close range in an ensuing firefight and managed to escape, the court added.

Gogeaskoetxea, 49, was arrested in the English city of Cambridge in July 2011 -- where he had been living for several years under a false identity -- after a fellow Spaniard recognised him at a squash club.

Spain's National Court sentenced him to 30 years in jail for murdering a police officer and another 15 years for conspiring against the monarchy.

It gave him another 47 years behind bars for several other crimes related to the plot including forgery of public documents and possessing weapons.

Under Spanish law, a convicted criminal can serve a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, unless he is convicted of carrying out deadly terrorist attacks in which case a life sentence is possible.

Gogeaskoetxea's lawyers had fought his extradition to Spain, arguing he faced a real risk of "a flagrant denial of justice" in the country because the accusations against him were based on the confessions of a co-defendant who was allegedly denied proper access to a lawyer.

Britain's High Court in 2012 rejected the appeal and he was extradited.

ETA is blamed for more than 800 killings in its campaign of bombings and shootings to create an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

The group's last deadly attack in Spain was in August 2009.

In October 2011, it declared a "definitive end to armed activity" but it has yet to formally disband or disarm as the Spanish and French governments demand.

ETA has been linked to several other assassination plots on Juan Carlos, 78, who abdicated the throne to his son Felipe in 2014.

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