Xabier Lopez Peña: Leading member of Eta

 

It says much about the life of Xabier Lopez Peña, aka Thierry, that virtually the first time he came into full-scale public view, in May 2008, was also almost the last. Over the previous three decades, Thierry was strongly suspected of becoming a key figure in the Basque terrorist group Eta, and it was only when he was arrested along with three other alleged Eta members in a French police operation that the clandestine existence he had led since the early 1980s came to a definitive conclusion.

Photographed shortly after his detention in a flat in Bordeaux in 2008, the heavily-built, wildly gesticulating Lopez Peña – eyes gleaming fiercely behind his glasses and yelling pro-Basque independence slogans at the television cameras – cast a dramatic figure. And his arrest, viewed in some quarters as the most important since that of Mikel Antxa, the head of Eta's military operations, in 2004, coincided with an equally significant watershed in Eta's four decades of armed struggle.

Described by Spain's then Minister of the Interior, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, as the “person with the greatest military and political influence” in Eta, Lopez Peña gained his highest profile outside the group in the midwinter of 2006, when he took over as its representative in increasingly tense negotiations with Spain's Socialist government. As the discussions, held in an Oslo restaurant, continued, Lopez Peña is said to have spectacularly hardened the group's stance, switching the talks' focus to Basque rights to self-determination, undermining progress on questions concerning Eta prisoners and allegedly threatening at one point to turn Spain “into another Vietnam”. Other tactics for raising the stakes, according to the government negotiator Jesus Eguiguren, included asking Eguiguren to call up Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and pass him the phone.

Barely a few weeks later, Lopez Peña was thought to be one of the masterminds behind the abrupt end to Eta's nine-month truce when a bomb exploded in Madrid's Barajas airport in late December 2006, killing two Ecuadorean workers. Following the explosion, what had been the longest peace talks at that point petered out a few months later when Eta formally declared the ceasefire over.

Thierry is said to have joined Eta in 1980. He had a spell in prison, accused of criminal association in 1983, and following his release on bail he went permanently on the run. Around eight years later, in 1991, anti-terrorist sources have suggested that Lopez Peña took control of Eta's zulos [hide-outs] for their arm stashes before police surveillance forced him to flee for a year or so to central America.

On returning, by now a senior member of the group, he is strongly rumoured to have become an Eta quartermaster, running logistical operations within one of its key military sectors. His links to Eta once again came to the fore when he received an eight-year prison sentence in absentia in France alongside 15 other activists, as well as being named in Spain in a separate case as an instructor for a younger Eta member in weapons-handling and bomb-making.

But Lopez Pena's alleged rise towards the heart of Eta leadership came at a price. Reports of a prolonged internal power struggle between him and the even more radical Txeroki, Garitkoitz Aspiazu Rubino – currently on trial in France – started to appear soon after the Barajas bombing.

The conflict with Txeroki only ended when Lopez Peña, formally accused of collaboration with an illegal armed organisation in February 2007, was arrested in May 2008. Facing intensifying police pressure and a quickening succession of arrests of leading Eta members – including Txeroki in November 2008, and apparently in no small part because of documentation found when Lopez Peña was detained – Eta then took its tortuous route towards its most definitive ceasefire to date, in October 2011.

Thierry, seemingly marginalised from Eta's leadership after he was accused of hindering further “actions” by the group, remained in prison in France. Suffering from a heart condition, he died from a stroke in a Paris hospital last week, sparking a wave of protests among support groups at the treatment of Eta prisoners. Meanwhile the spiral of separatist violence, in which “Thierry” was so heavily involved, had already ceased.

Xabier Lopez Peña, Eta activist: born Galdakao, Basque Country, Spain 30 May 1958; died Paris 30 March 2013.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing & Commnunications Executive, London

£30000 - £34000 per annum: Charter Selection: This highly successful organisat...

Java/Calypso Developer

£600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, ...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Senior Marine / Shipping Solicitor - South Coast

Highly Competitive Package: Austen Lloyd: SOUTH COAST - MARINE / SHIPPING Th...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment