CRIME

Convicted ETA hitman goes on trial for prison escape

Helicopter hijacking plot sees terrorist, girlfriend and lawyer face court

A convicted ETA terrorist - serving time for a 1995 assassination plot against King Juan Carlos - his girlfriend and lawyer are scheduled to go on trial at High Court on Monday for trying to concoct a daring prison escape by hijacking a helicopter.

Prosecutor Pedro Martínez is seeking six years and three months for terrorist Jorge García Sertucha, 16 years and three months for lawyer Iñako Goyoaga, and eight years for Ana Paz Cinos, who was Sertucha's girlfriend at the time.

Sertucha is currently serving a 30-year sentence along with two other ETA terrorists, Juan José Rego Vidal, and his son Ignacio Rego Sebastián, for plotting to kill the king in Palma de Mallorca in 1995. During his previous trial, Sertucha told the High Court that he had the king at close shooting range on at least three different occasions.

According to the latest indictment, ETA had "perfectly elaborated" a plan in the summer of 2007 to help Sertucha, whose alias is "Patas," and another terrorist escape from a prison in Huelva. The plan had to be postponed for the following year because of the reluctance of the second inmate.

Details of the escape and the identities of the co-conspirators involved were discovered after authorities arrested the Basque terrorist group political chief Francisco Javier López Peña, alias "Thierry," in May 2008.

The plan was to hijack a helicopter and force its pilot to hover over the central courtyard of the penitentiary where Sertucha was being held. Using a cable and harness, the prisoner was to be lifted out of the compound and taken to another country, perhaps Portugal, where a car would be standing by.

Goyoaga, the lawyer, is said to be part of the organization Halboka and acted as a pointman between the ETA hierarchy and the Basque terrorist inmates. Prosecutors have also linked him to the group BITA, which is responsible for kidnappings.

Cinos, for her part, took advantage of the privacy afforded to inmates with their partners to convey information to Sertucha from ETA leaders, the charges state.

On Thursday, the High Court will also open a trial against seven members of an ETA support group who are charged with street disturbances that took place on September 7, 2009 during festivals in the town of Lekeitio.

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