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Portugal jails ETA terrorist for 12 years on arms charges

Andoni Zengotitabengoa was detained almost by chance in 2010

ETA member Andoni Zengotitabengoa, 32, was sentenced on Friday by a Portuguese court to 12 years in jail for crimes including membership in a terrorist organization, possession of explosives, falsifying documents and altering license plates, among others. Zengotitabengoa was arrested at Lisbon airport attempting to flee to Venezuela in March 2010.

Zengotitabengoa and another ETA member, Oier Gómez Mielgo, 24, were caught almost by chance. In February 2010, their vehicle was stopped at a routine checkpoint for not having a front license plate. Fearing capture, the two men fled, first in the car and then on foot, to swiftly gather some belongings from their rented house.

As they departed, they committed a fatal error, and left the front door open. A police sergeant who lived in the town, Casal Da Avarela, noticed that something was wrong and called the National Guard, who discovered 1,500 kilos of explosives and 12 limpet mines.

In its report, the court said that ETA had been active in Portugal since 2007, considering it a safer place to launch attacks on Spain than the more heavily policed south of France.