16 held in raid against ETA network

Lawyers and former treasurers are suspected of tax crimes and fraud, Civil Guard says

Sortu leader Pernando Barrena (left) has criticized the Civil Guard raid.
Sortu leader Pernando Barrena (left) has criticized the Civil Guard raid.Javier Hernández

Sixteen people with ties to terrorist group ETA were arrested Monday morning in a raid that took place simultaneously in Madrid, Navarre and the Basque provinces of Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia.

The detainees are suspected of fraud, money laundering and tax crimes, and they include 12 lawyers who regularly work as defense attorneys for the Basque organization. There are also four former treasurers for Herrira, a support group for ETA convicts, Civil Guard sources said.

The raid was part of an investigation into ETA’s financing network, and was ordered by the High Court, Spain’s central criminal court.

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According to sources familiar with the situation, some of the suspects had orders from ETA leaders to ensure all prisoners follow the organization’s guidelines, “putting the group’s political interests ahead of any other consideration.”

The Interior Ministry has always claimed that Herrira, which was created after the Basque organization announced a “definitive end to armed activity” in October 2011, was simply “a tentacle of ETA.”

Pernando Barrena, an official at Sortu, a Basque party widely considered to be the heir to Batasuna, ETA’s outlawed political wing, said the raid was “cold-blooded revenge” against lawyers who “were able to bring down the Parot doctrine.”

The arrests come shortly after a rally held last weekend in Bilbao to ask that ETA prisoners be transferred to penitentiaries in the Basque Country. The Spanish government’s policy so far has been to scatter them throughout the peninsula to sever their ties to the organization, which has yet to formally dissolve or disarm despite the cessation of violence.