3 Basques convicted in 2006 Madrid airport bombing

Each man given 1,040 year prison sentence for fatal blast

By Ciaran Giles

Published May 21, 2010 12:17PM (EDT)

Three members of Basque separatist group ETA were convicted Friday of a 2006 bombing that destroyed a Madrid airport parking garage and killed two people in an attack that shattered a cease-fire.

The three men were each given 1,040 prison sentences. Spain frequently hands down lengthy sentences in terrorism cases although they are mostly symbolic because the maximum jail sentence a person can serve for a terrorism conviction is 40 years.

The National Court found the three men guilty of murder, attempted murder and taking part in a terror attack in connection with the Dec. 30, 2006 explosion at Madrid's Barajas airport. The blast destroyed a five-story parking garage, killing two Ecuadorean immigrants and wounding 41 other people.

ETA later claimed responsibility for the attack, which marked the end of the cease-fire that the group had begun nine months earlier.

Convicted were Mattin Sarasola, Igor Portu and Mikel San Sebastian. The three were ordered to pay euro1.2 million ($1.48 million) in compensation to the families of the two Ecuadoreans.

ETA is seeking an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France. Considered a terrorist organization by the European Union and the U.S., the group has killed more than 825 people since the late 1960s.

The group declared a cease-fire in March 2006 but reverted to violence in a matter of months after peace talks with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government went nowhere. Spanish and French police have arrested dozens of suspected ETA members in both countries since the end of the cease-fire.

Friday's verdict came a day after French and Spanish police arrested ETA's suspected leader and his second in command in what officials termed an important blow though not a death knell for the organization.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba identified the alleged leader as Mikel Kabikoitz Carrera Sarobe and said he was the instigator of major ETA bombings last summer in Spain, one of which killed two policemen on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca.

It was the sixth arrest of an ETA leader in two years.

Ciaran Giles

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