Spain Court Frees 13 ETA Members under Rights Ruling


A Spanish court on Thursday freed a further 13 jailed members of Basque armed separatist group ETA, a court source said, under a rights ruling that has outraged victims' families.

Many Spaniards are outraged by the release of ETA prisoners convicted of deadly shootings and bombings in a violent campaign to carve out an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled last month that Spain had acted illegally by retroactively cutting short the years of remission that an ETA prisoner had earned from good behavior.

Dozens of ETA members and other violent convicts had their remissions cut short under the same policy, and they are now demanding their release under the European court ruling.

Those whose release was ordered on Thursday include Antxon Lopez Ruiz, who was sentenced in 1986 to 1,210 years in jail on various counts, including the killing of a reformed member of the group.

The National Court in Spain ordered the release of the 13 ETA members "in line with the recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights", said the court source, who asked not to be named.

In October 2011, ETA declared a "definitive end to armed activity" but it has not formally disarmed nor disbanded as the Spanish and French governments demand.

The group has been severely weakened in recent years by the arrests of its senior leaders in Spain and France.

The Strasbourg ruling has also led to several serial rapists and murderers being released.

A court in the northern town of Burgos on Thursday released Pedro Luis Gallego Fernandez, 53, dubbed "the elevator rapist". He was jailed in 1996 for raping and killing two women plus a string of other sex attacks.

He was the third rapist to be released under the Strasbourg ruling, after Pablo Garcia Ribado, who was sentenced in 1996 to 1,721 years' jail for 74 rapes, and Antonio Garcia Carbonell, sentenced in 1996 to 268 years.

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