Tape traps Eta lawyers

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The Independent Online
A 'BUGGED' prison conversation, said by the Spanish authorities to be between Basque terrorists and their lawyers, paints a picture of desperate young lawyers proposing further murders and trying to prevent convicts from renouncing the terrorist independence movement. Senior Basque sources privately concede that the tape appears genuine.

It suggests the lawyers are strongly entrenched in the Eta terrorist group and in favour of further attacks. The allegiance of a group of Basque lawyers to the extreme end of the independence movement was an open secret. But the tape suggests that the central government's attempts to break the terrorist group are increasingly bearing fruit. A terrorist convicted of more than 20 murders and said to be speaking on the tape appears to be cracking under the prison authorities' tactics of concessions in return for renunciation of terrorism. The voices attributed to the lawyers make it clear they favour further murders and urge the convicts to remain hardline.

'You're tired, we're tired of giving them (leaders of the Eta terrorist group for an independent Basque homeland) accurate information,' one lawyer, named by prison authorities as Txemi Gorostiza, says on the tape released to the press yesterday. 'What you do is you pick one, and put him six feet under . . . bang, bang, we hit him.

'You tell them (the leaders) that and they tell you, it can't be done. What do they mean, it can't be done? If there are 90 makos (prisons), there are 90 prison directors, and obviously a lot more deputy directors,' Mr Gorostiza's alleged voice goes on.

Prison authorities and state prosecutors say the tape was recorded when Mr Gorostiza and a female colleague, Arantxa Zulueta, spoke with three Eta murder convicts in Alcala-Meco prison outside Madrid on 12 January. Ten days later a prison officer was shot dead in the Basque town of San Sebastian.

Three days before that, a leading nightclub owner and former Spanish First Division footballer, Jose Antonio Santamaria, was killed as he ate in the same town. His 'crime' was that he liked to dine with a senior official of Spain's ruling Socialist Party. The killing was also seen as an indication that the terrorists were being forced to seek out 'soft' targets to keep their campaign alive after the detention of much of their leadership in the past year. In the light of the tape, it appears that younger, renegade Eta elements are trying to keep the movement alive against an old guard that prefers to turn away from the terrorist road.

Mr Gorostiza and Ms Zulueta were detained on Wednesday on suspicion of aiding a terrorist organisation. Ms Zulueta, a leading lawyer in Eta cases, has since been freed on bail of 300,000 pesetas ( pounds 2,000). One of the three prisoners on the tape, according to officials of the Alcala-Meco jail, was Juan Ignacio de Juana Chaos, convicted of more than 20 killings including the deaths of 18 Guardia Civil policemen on a bombed coach in Madrid in 1986.

'Maybe I'm getting to the stage where I don't know whether the project I'm in now is the same one I signed up for,' says the alleged voice of de Juana. Complaining that many other Eta convicts are getting better prison treatment after softening their views, he tells his visitors: 'I'm not made of hard aluminium, you know.'

Complaining of 'total abandonment' by Eta's leadership, the prisoner's voice goes on. 'I'm a militant of Eta. But Eta is ignoring me . . . if things don't change, I'm out.'