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Former ETA leader receives jail term for role in plot to assassinate King Juan Carlos


A former leader of the terrorist group, ETA, has been given a 15-year prison sentence for plotting to assassinate King Juan Carlos in the 1990s. Maria Soledad Iparraguirre Guenechea, also known as Anboto, is already serving a series of other jail terms.

The latest sentence is for her role in a plot to assassinate Juan Carlos I in October 1997 during a visit to Bilbao for the official opening of the Guggenheim Museum.

Juan Carlos was due to open the museum on October 18th 1997. Around 4 pm on the 13th of October, a van approached the site of the opening. At the time, Spain was in the midst of ETA’s most brutal period. Two police officers approached the van after the occupants had unloaded a flower pot from it. Seeing the officers come, the driver and their accomplice fled while shooting. One of the two police officers later died from gunshot wounds. 

An anti-terrorism task force investigated the van and found it had stolen number plates. Inside, they discovered more flower pots, all of which contained grenades. Experts said the explosives could have destroyed at least the front part of the Guggenheim Museum explode and killed dozens. The devices were part of an ETA plot to kill King Juan Carlos during his visit.

The King didn’t allow the plot to intimidate him and went ahead with the event, as scheduled.

The mastermind of the attack, Eneko Gogeaskoetxea, was arrested in July 2011 in Cambridge, England, where he had been living for several years with his wife and children under a false identity. He was sentenced to 92 years in prison in May 2016. 

The brain behind the attempted assassination was always believed to be María Soledad Iparraguirre Guenechea, also known as Anboto, who assumed the command of ETA around 1993 and maintained it until 1997 when she was believed to have fled to France. 

She was arrested in Salies-de-Béarn, France, in 2004, where she was sentenced to 20 years in prison for directing a terrorist organisation. She was handed back to Spanish authorities in 2019 after completing her sentence. 

Since 2019, the Spanish Supreme Court, in its terrorism branch, has made cases against her that brought with them a total of more than 250 years in prison, to which she added 15 years more on 14 September 2021 for plotting the assassination of a Monarch. The reasons for the 15 years sentence were officially given as “crimes against the Crown” and “possession of weapons of war within a terrorist organisation”. Her most substantive amount of jail time comes from a sentence she received in July of 2021, amounting to 122 years of prison for the assassination of Luciano Cortizo, a soldier that died in a car bomb that exploded in the city of Leon in 1995. 

Anboto was also chosen as the face for the 2018 announcement by the ETA that their group had officially dissolved. The 60-year-old will probably spend the rest of her life in a Spanish prison.

King Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 and went into self-imposed exile in 2020 following increasing scrutiny over his finances.