Eta terrorist jailed for 41 years over plan to kill the King of Spain

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An Eta terrorist who plotted to kill the King of Spain in a "Day of the Jackal-style" assassination has been jailed for 41 years.

Javier Perez Aldunate had planned to shoot the Spanish monarch during Easter in 2004 after the king travelled to Majorca to watch a Davis Cup tennis match.

Perez Aldunate had been ordered by the Basque terrorist organisation Eta to follow King Juan Carlos. Once in Majorca he had to await a telephone call in which he would learn of the whereabouts of a sniper rifle he would use to assassinate the king. But after a series of bungles, the plot never came to fruition.

Perez Aldunate was ordered by Eta leaders to go to France, but he was arrested in 2005 in the Basque Country, where he was plotting to kill a deputy from the Popular Party and members of the Civil Guard. He was caught with a telescopic rifle, 30 rounds of ammunition and a pistol. Apart from the ammunition and guns, the authorities found a letter from Eta ordering Perez Aldunate to turn a uniformed enemy "upside down", a euphemism for murder.

The instructions said it did not matter who that uniformed person was, but that it had to be done before 19 March 2005.

The plot to kill the King had shades of the Frederick Forsyth novel Day of the Jackal, in which a hitman tries unsuccessfully to kill the former president of France, Charles de Gaulle.

After the trial at Madrid's maximum security Audiencia Nacional court, Perez Aldunate was convicted of an offence against the Crown, two offences of conspiracy to murder, being a member of a terrorist organisation, possessing firearms and explosives and falsification of documents.

The court heard Perez Aldunate was told to travel from France, where he was in hiding, via Barcelona to Majorca in April 2004. He was told by the Eta leadership that he would get a call on a mobile phone he had bought in Barcelona telling him where to find the rifle he would use to shoot the king.

But the prosecutor told the court that despite being in Majorca for more than a month, Perez Aldunate "could not get the firearm with which to kill the king" and was told by his superiors to return to France.

The truth was that Eta had failed to deliver the gun to the waiting marksman in time before the king left. Ieltxu Lopez de Aberasturi was sentenced to six years' jail for belonging to a terrorist organisation at the same trial. He had been arrested alongside Perez Aldunate in 2005.

Police discovered notes on possible targets during a search of a house in the Basque Country which belonged to the other Eta member, Pablo Aperibay, who is still wanted by the authorities. The targets included Leopoldo Barreda, a spokesman for the Popular Party, and members of the Civil Guard command in Bilbao.

It is not the first time that Eta had tried to assassinate the King of Spain. In 2000, another plot was foiled after officers seized a number of grenades and at least one grenade launcher buried in a shallow pit near a Basque village where the king, the then Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder were due to visit an open-air museum. Another plot was foiled in 1998 when six Eta terrorists were arrested after the murder of a town councillor in the Basque country.

Eta's most successful assassination was that of the former Spanish prime minister Luis Carrero Blanco, who was General Francisco Franco's appointed successor. Carrero Blanco was killed with a massive car bomb in Madrid in 1973.