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Europe

Suspected Basque militant requests political asylum in Belgium

A man arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Basque militant separatist group ETA is applying for political asylum in Belgium. Lawyers say that extradition to Spain would violate their client’s human rights.

A haul of ETA explosives

The man is wanted for helping to ship explosives

A suspected member of the banned Basque separatist group ETA has requested political asylum in Spain, the Belgian news agency Belga reported on Thursday.

Luis Maria Zengotitabengoa is suspected of involvement in shipping explosives to a bomb-making workshop in Portugal.

Scene of an ETA bombing in Spain

ETA is regarded as a terrorist organization for its bomb and gun attacks

Zengotitabengoa's lawyer told French news agency AFP that he was applying for asylum under the terms on the Geneva Convention.

"The Geneva Conventions say that if there is a risk of a violation of human rights, you can ask for political asylum," Paul Bekaert said. "Many reports show that human rights are not respected in Spain regarding the Basques."

Detained on way to Britain

The 29-year-old Zengotitabengoa was detained at the port of Ostend on a European arrest warrant, while trying to flee to Britain. He is described by Spanish authorities as one of the most wanted members of the group.

ETA is considered a terrorist organization by the European Union because of its campaign of bomb and gun attacks. The group is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 829 people after more than 40 years of violence, to back up its demands for independence for the Basque region in northeastern Spain and southwestern France.

Author: Richard Connor (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Chuck Penfold