Spanish judge indicts six alleged ETA members

Francisco Javier López Peña, a suspected ETA separatist, will be prosecuted for allegedly collaborating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). (Olivier Pon/Reuters)

Francisco Javier López Peña, a suspected ETA separatist, will be prosecuted for allegedly collaborating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). (Olivier Pon/Reuters)

By Carlos Barahona Uribe for Infosurhoy.com—14/03/2011

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Spanish High Court Judge Eloy Velasco said he will prosecute six suspected Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) separatists for allegedly collaborating with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Velasco has indicted Francisco Javier López Peña (alias “Thierry”), a suspected former ETA leader, and Mikel Carrera Sarobe (alias “Ata”), an alleged former commander of the same Spanish separatist group.

They are both jailed in France. López was apprehended in 2008, with Carrera taken into custody in 2010.

Velasco also indicted alleged ETA members Ignacio Olascoaga, José Lorenzo Ayestarán, Iurgui Mendinueta and Iraitz Guesalaga, who is allegedly the group’s computer specialist.

Another indictment has been issued for Arturo Cubillas, a Venezuelan government official who Velasco alleges maintains contact with ETA and FARC leaders.

Cubillas, Spanish by birth, currently holds a high post in the Ministry of Agriculture of Venezuela, after having adopted Venezuelan citizenship through marriage.

In 2010, Velasco asked Cubillas be extradited to Spain, but the Venezuelan government has not officially responded to Velasco’s request.

“From at least 2004 to 2008, Arturo Cubillas has kept in constant, permanent, secure and direct contact with the head of the terrorist organization ETA,” according to the warrant issued by Velasco.

Velasco accuses Cubillas of being “the leader of ETA in the Americas.”

López Peña, Carrera Sarobe and Cubillas are charged with belonging to a terrorist organization at the leadership level.

The warrant is a result of a case opened by Spanish officials seeking to investigate ties between the two criminal organizations.

Velasco said that from Venezuela, Cubillas coordinated and carried out management tasks in weapons training and instruction in terrorist tactics for ETA members. Cubillas was formally charged in Spain last March, helping ETA arrange explosives training with FARC rebels in Venezuela, among other alleged crimes, according to The Associated Press.

Vicente Torrijos, a political scientist and international relations analyst from Bogotá’s Universidad del Rosario and Spain’s Universidad Complutense de Madrid, said Velasco’s announcement could cause dissention between the Colombian and Venezuelan governments.

“[The decision] comes at a time at which, after having enjoyed a certain calmness, the relations between the Colombian and Venezuelan governments could become tense, due to the accusations of collaboration between terrorist groups on Venezuelan territory,” Torrijos said.

Velasco said his decision was based on evidence seized on a computer belonging to the late Jorge Briceño. Briceño, the FARC’s military chief who went by the alias “Mono Jojoy” and was considered the terrorist group’s No. 2 leader, died during a bombing by the Colombian military in September 2010.

The computer files found on Briceño’s computer revealed a link between the two organizations, Velasco said.

“There were meetings between the FARC and ETA on Venezuelan territory,” he said.

Álvaro Rincón, a political scientist living in France, said if Velasco’s allegations are true, they could heighten tensions between Colombia and Venezuela.

“The truth is that if the alleged documents seized in the operation that led to bringing Jorge Briceño down and the link between these terrorist groups are made public, there could be another wave of diplomatic difficulties between the neighboring countries,” Rincón said.

ETA has been blamed for 829 deaths in its quest to establish a Basque nation independent of Spain. The FARC is Colombia’s largest terrorist organization, fighting the state since the 1960s. The FARC has more than 8,000 members, according to the Colombian government.

The death of Briceño was a huge victory for President Juan Manuel Santos’ fight against terrorism. Santos called the death of Briceño, the FARC’s No. 2 leader, “the most crushing blow against the FARC in its entire history.”

The Colombian government hasn’t officially commented on Velasco’s warrant.

The Colombian government is concentrating on dismantling the FARC. The military has been aggressive in its fight, yet the government also has established programs to help FARC members who surrender to authorities voluntarily make a smooth transition to mainstream society.

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