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47 convicted in ETA crackdown

  • Story Highlights
  • 47 people convicted of belong to or collaborating with Basque separatists ETA
  • Convictions follow a crackdown by police and courts on ETA activities
  • ETA ended cease-fire in June; blamed for deaths of two anti-terror police officers
  • 47 sentenced to 500 years in prison in total; none can serve longer than 40 years
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From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman
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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- A Spanish court on Wednesday convicted 47 people who either belonged to or collaborated with the Basque separatist group ETA through a series of shadowy organizations, CNN partner station CNN+ reported.

The 47 were sentenced to a combined 500 years in prison, although no prisoner can serve longer than 40 years under Spanish law. Five others on trial were acquitted.

The convictions follow a crackdown by courts and police on ETA activities since the group ended a unilateral cease-fire last June, targeting both armed militants and those providing logistical support.

ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths in its nearly 40-year fight for Basque independence. It is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

Judges of the National Court, which handles terrorism cases, ruled that a group called "Ekin" was "part of the heart" of ETA and not a mere satellite. It found that Ekin was the successor to a group called KAS, while some others convicted were involved with a group called Xaki.

Earlier this month, police accused ETA members of shooting dead two undercover Spanish Civil Guard officers during an anti-terrorist mission in France, where ETA has traditionally prepared its attacks in Spain.

Those were the first deaths blamed on ETA since last December 30, when an ETA car bomb at Madrid's airport killed two men and destroyed a parking garage.

The airport attack came during ETA's unilateral cease-fire, declared in March 2006 and which ETA had promised would be "permanent," raising hopes for a lasting peace.

The government considered the cease-fire broken after that attack, but ETA did not officially call off the cease-fire until last June. It has since attempted numerous attacks, although police have thwarted several of them.

Police in France and Spain have since stepped up arrests of ETA suspects, and the courts have delivered convictions in various cases of ETA suspects. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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