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ETA member sentenced to 92 years for plot to kill Spanish king

Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui has been sentenced to 92 years in prison by the Spanish national court for his part in a failed plot to assassinate Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos I. Gogeaskoetxea, a member of the Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), plotted with another group member to kill Juan Carlos with grenades at the opening of Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum on 18 October 1997.

The plot was foiled by Spanish police when they discovered the two men attempting to hide the weapons in flowerpots outside the museum while dressed as gardeners five days ahead of the event. This sparked a deadly firefight which saw Gogeaskoetxea shoot and kill a police officer at close range before escaping. He remained at large until July 2011 when he was arrested after bring recognised by a fellow Spaniard at a squash club in Cambridge, England, where Gogeaskoetxea had been living under a false identity for a period of several years.

Britain’s high court rejected an appeal by his lawyers to block his extradition in 2011. They argued that he faced a risk of “a flagrant denial of justice” because the accusations against him were based on confessions obtained from a co-defendant who may have been denied access to a lawyer. They were, however, ultimately unsuccessful and he returned to Spain to face trial.

Gogeaskoetxea received three sentences for a total of 92 years behind bars: 30 years for murdering a police officer, 15 years for conspiring against the monarchy and 47 years for other crimes related to the assassination plot, including forging public documents and possessing weapons. Though criminals in Spain serve a maximum sentence of 40 years, under Spanish Law exceptions are made in cases such as this, where the criminal is convicted of executing deadly terrorist attacks.

Juan Carlos assumed the Spanish throne on 22 November 1975 and ruled for 39 years before abdicating to his son, Felipe VI, in June 2014. He survived several assassination attempts including several with links to ETA. ETA is believed to be responsible for more than 800 killings and a campaign of bombings and shootings aimed at securing an independent Basque territory in north Spain and south-west France. The group refuses to bow to Spanish and French governmental demands to disband though they did declare a ‘definitive end to armed activity’ in 2011.