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Retrials set for former ETA leader arrested in France

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Paris (AFP)

A former leader of the Basque separatist group ETA who was arrested in France last month after 16 years on the run, will be retried on two convictions, judicial sources said Tuesday.

Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea Bengoetxea, alias Josu Ternera, one of the Basque separatist group's most influential leaders, was convicted in absentia in 2010 and 2017 of belonging to a "terrorist" organisation.

The onetime ETA political chief, now 68, was sentenced to eight years in prison in May 2017, and to seven years in December 2010.

Hearings to kick off the retrials of the two cases are set for June 19 and 28.

Ternera, who is believed to be seriously ill, was arrested on May 16 in the town of Sallanche in the French Alps.

Spanish authorities had been trying to track Ternera down since 2002, linking him to an attack on a police barracks in the northern city of Zaragoza in 1987 which left 11 people dead, including children.

ETA killed more than 800 people in more than four decades of violence for an independent Basque state.

Thought to be the instigator of ETA's bloody strategy of combining car bomb and shooting attacks in the 1980s, Ternera was also one of the proponents of trying to reach a peace deal later on.

Ternera, who headed ETA from 1977 to 1992, recorded the "final declaration" announcing the separatist group had completely dissolved in May 2018.

Before that, he had taken part in negotiations with Spain's Socialist government and was shunted aside in 2006 after the talks failed as more hardline elements took control.

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