ETA member captured in Belfast sentenced to 51 years

THE High Court in Madrid has handed down a sentence of 51 years to a member of Basque separatist group ETA for his role in a 2001 bombing in the Spanish capital.

On December 12 judges found Fermin Vila Michelena was found guilty of membership of a terrorist organisation, weapons possession, conspiracy to murder, and stealing the vehicle used in the attack which injured 91 people. 

The 45-year-old was apprehended in Belfast in 2010, having worked as a chef in an Argentinian restaurant, and was formally extradited last year. 

He was also wanted as an alleged member of a Madrid based ETA cell that was responsible for the death of a senior army officer and a policeman. 

A member of the armed group, which emerged in 1968 as a violent movement for a Basque homeland, since he was 14-years-old, Vila Michelena was a candidate for European elections in 1994, and has been on an EU list of terrorist suspects since 2001. 

Several Basque militants have made Belfast their home over the years, with continued extradition proceedings existing over other suspects. 

ETA is the main group in the wider Basque Liberation Movement and was engaged in a guerrilla struggle with the Spanish government until a ceasefire in 2010 which holds to this day.

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