Spanish prosecutors on Monday formally requested the extradition of the man who they believe is ETA’s current leader, Oroitz Gurruchaga Gogorza, arrested by authorities in southwestern France.
The High Court has three open cases against Gurruchaga — two for membership of the illegal Basque terrorist group and another judicial investigation for street violence, known as kale borroka.
Prosecutors are also seeking the extradition of Xabier Aramburu Sagarminga, believed to be Gurruchaga’s top lieutenant, who was captured with him after they were stopped by French law enforcement authorities near Cauna, southwestern France, on Sunday. They were both armed and traveling in a stolen car.
High Court Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska ordered the arrest of Gurruchaga in January 2009 on the charge that he belonged to the ETA terrorist group. It is believed that he fled to France the previous year after Spanish police had arrested some 10 other alleged ETA members on charges that they were engaging in street violence. Gurruchaga is thought to have been a member of Segi — ETA’s youth group which organized street violence in Rentería, Gipuzkoa over the last decade.
The arrests come days before France’s new interior minister, the Catalan-born Manuel Valls, is expected to arrive in Madrid to meet for the first time with his Spanish counterpart, Jorge Fernández Díaz.
With the arrests of Gurruchaga and Aramburu, law enforcement authorities have captured 15 ETA members since October 20, when the terrorist group announced a formal cease in hostilities. The 30-year-old Gurruchaga is thought to have taken over as military chief of the terrorist group following the capture of Mikel Kabikoitz Carrera, alias “Ata,” on May 20, 2011. Authorities say that he was responsible for recruiting new ETA members. Gurruchaga’s brother, Egoitz, died in September 2002 when an explosive device that he was carrying went off in Bilbao.
In December 2008, Gurruchaga announced in the newspaper Gara that he, along with another friend, was joining ETA because the pressure by law enforcement authorities had “pushed” him to make this decision.
Aramburu, 31, is wanted for a car bombing that took place in 2008 in Ondarroa, in Bizkaia in which several people were injured.