A new trial begins against former ETA chief Txeroki for an attack in Bilbao: “I did not participate in that action” | Spain | The USA Print


Garikoitz Aspiazu, former head of ETA, this Tuesday at the National Court.
Garikoitz Aspiazu, former head of ETA, this Tuesday at the National Court.Fernando Villar (EFE)

Mikel Garikoitz Aspiazu, Txeroki, one of the most bloodthirsty former ETA chiefs, has returned this Tuesday to the National High Court to face one of the dozen pending cases. France, where the terrorist is serving a sentence, authorized his delivery to Spain last January to be tried for an attack committed in the center of Bilbao in January 2002, which only left two minor injuries, but which the Basque political leadership considered a real attempt of “massacre”. The hearing has started late and the ETA member has distanced himself from the crime: “I did not participate in this action and I do not know anything about it,” he stated in Basque.

Txeroki has refused to answer questions from the prosecutor and the accusations, and has answered only one question from his lawyer. The public ministry asks that he be sentenced to 32 years in prison for this crime, perpetrated by the command K-Olaiato which the defendant belonged at that time, according to the Police.

A car bomb exploded at 1:45 p.m. on January 12, 2002 at the confluence of Gran Vía and Alameda de Mazarredo streets in Bilbao. ETA placed up to 30 kilos of dynamite in a Renault 18 and a Casio PQ6 timer activation system, with an arming lock and two electric detonators in parallel. The terrorists had stolen the car two hours earlier at Alto de Kobarón de Muskiz, where they held the driver at gunpoint, who had parked in the area to wash the vehicle.

The Prosecutor’s Office details that the motorist “was approached from behind by two men” with a gun in their hands. They “presented themselves” as members of ETA and forced him to get into the car, where they put a hood on him and handcuffed him. They then abandoned him in a secluded area. “He was handcuffed with his hands behind his back and tied to a tree,” one of the agents who participated in the search for the victim detailed on Tuesday.

Next, the ETA members telephoned Emergencies at 1:10 p.m. to notify them of the placement of the bomb. At 1:22 p.m., the daily Gara informed the Ertzaintza that they had also received a call warning of the attack. The terrorists assured that the device would explode at 1:30 p.m., for which the agents began to cordon off and evacuate the area. But the bomb exploded at 1:45 p.m. and caused two minor injuries and more than 1.6 million euros in material damage.

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With this attack, ETA sought to commit a “massacre” in the center of Bilbao, according to what the mayor of the city, Iñaki Azkuna (PNV), declared at the time. The car was placed in the vicinity of the Bank of Spain, and near the BBVA and El Corte Inglés, in full sales. Javier Balza, then Minister of the Interior of the Government of Juan José Ibarretxe, stated: “[El crimen] It is addressed to the heart of the city and to the heart of Basque society”.

Since France arrested Txeroki in November 2008, when he was the most wanted ETA leader, he has been temporarily handed over to Spain on several occasions to stand trial. The National Court sentenced him for the first time in 2011 to 377 years in prison for 20 attempted murders. His last step through this judicial body was in 2019, accused of participating in the murder of magistrate José María Lidón, shot on November 7, 2001 in Getxo (Bizkaia). In that case, the court decided to acquit the ETA member for lack of evidence.

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