The National Court advances in the resolution of a key murder of ETA of 36 years ago | Spain


Former president Carlos Garaikoetxea, before the coffin of Carlos Díaz Arcocha, on March 8, 1985.
Former president Carlos Garaikoetxea, before the coffin of Carlos Díaz Arcocha, on March 8, 1985.EFE

The National Court advances in the resolution of one of the 300 ETA attacks without clarifying: the death of superintendent Carlos Díaz Arcocha, first head of the Ertzaintza, assassinated in 1985 in Vitoria with a sticky bomb. According to sources in the case, the investigators have compiled a whole battery of evidence that has allowed the Police to “conclude” since the Rotate command is behind the crime, in addition to identifying the terrorist who allegedly planted the explosive. The agents are now delving into the ties of José Javier Arizcuren Ruiz, Kantauri, ex-leader of the band, with the attack.

The ETA members assassinated Díaz Arcocha on March 7, 1985. They planted a bomb under his vehicle when he was having breakfast in the cafeteria he used to go to, the Elorriaga gas station bar, near the headquarters of the academy of the body that he directed. . “ETA members had time to place [el artefacto] with a line connected to the wheel so that it was activated as soon as the car began to move ”, explains the Collective of Victims of Terrorism (Covite) in its Terror Map, where he adds: “Agents who were in the bar took him out of the iron mess and immediately transferred him to the hospital,” where he died.

The attack caused a huge commotion at the time because of its political significance. The victim met two conditions: he was a lieutenant colonel in the Spanish Army and head of a Basque institution symbolizing the government of Euskadi. But, more than 36 years later, no one has been condemned for the death of the Bilbao man, born into a Carlist family, a fervent defender of autonomy, who defined himself as “Basque and Spanish”, and who in 1981 assumed the commission of the president Carlos Garaikoetxea (PNV) to launch the Ertzaintza. When ETA assassinated him he was 52 years old, and he left a widow and five children.

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After the dismantling of the Rotate command In 1986, the security forces opened a line of investigation for their possible connection to the attack. According to an order from the National High Court, three of the detainees admitted their participation in the crime in their statement to the police, but later declined before the judge. The change in version then caused the instructor to consider that he did not have sufficient evidence against them and, “in the absence of any other corroborating element”, that same year he shelved some investigations that have ended up in oblivion for decades – they were only reopened to judge two in 2000 ertzainas accused of providing information to ETA about the superintendent, but both were acquitted.

Díaz Arcocha's vehicle after exploding the ETA bomb that ended his life on March 7, 1985.
Díaz Arcocha’s vehicle after exploding the ETA bomb that ended his life on March 7, 1985.EFE

Now, the investigators have crossed information that appeared in this summary with data and testimonies of other investigations that had not been taken into account. According to sources in the case, the new material includes the “self-criticisms” of the four members of Xira: Joseba Mirena Martínez, alias Txema; Ricardo Izaga, Txomin; Jesús Díaz de Heredia, Joshua; and Fernando San Vicente. These “self-criticisms” – “sung”, in ETA slang – are generally handwritten documents that the captured ETA members sent as soon as possible to their superiors to explain the causes of their arrest, and to provide relevant information or comment on any data that they had revealed. . The security forces grant great credibility to these papers, since they had to be “clear, concise and truthful”, since the security of the terrorist group was at stake.

The “sung” of Rotate command France intervened in 1987 on the occasion of the arrest of Santiago Arrospide, Santi Colts, then leader of ETA. These papers were then sent to Spain through a rogatory commission, but they were incorporated into other investigations. Now, as part of the review of the gang’s unsolved crimes, agents have found them and decisively incorporated them into the case of Arcocha’s murder. According to sources from the investigation, they have helped to reconstruct the attack by comparing it with other evidence.

According to these sources, Iraza admits in his “self-criticism” that he prepared the bomb and placed it in the car. A version that coincides with the “sung” of his companions and with his statement to the police after his arrest. In addition, Iraza’s “self-criticism” contains many details – the exact place where the device was placed, the activation system, and the amount and type of explosive – that coincide with the data in the report that the Explosives Deactivation Unit prepared in 1985 on the attack, which the investigators have also recovered and provided to the Court of Instruction 1, headed by Alejandro Abascal.

The General Information Commissary of the National Police has highlighted the “coincidences” between the evidence collected, according to sources in the case, who insist that the description of the terrorists about the materials used and the modus operandi It can only be done by the person who planned the attack and participated in it. In addition, Fernando San Vicente specified in his “song” that before the attack with the limpet bomb they had already tried to shoot Díaz Arcacho on another occasion, but they gave up because they ran into a Miñones de Álava police car in the bar from the gas station.

From left to right, Ricardo Izaga, Joseba Mirena Martínez, Jesús Díaz de Heredia and Fernando San Vicente, in the images released after their arrest in 1986.
From left to right, Ricardo Izaga, Joseba Mirena Martínez, Jesús Díaz de Heredia and Fernando San Vicente, in the images released after their arrest in 1986.EFE

The Police are now delving into Kantauri’s connection to the crime. The agents maintain that this ETA member, then a member of the Arab commandHe knew that Arcocha was going to be attacked: they suspect that he was able to provide data from the superintendent to the leadership of the gang and that it was transmitted to the members of Xira – no member of this command is currently in prison. “The information comes to us from France. We are told to attack Arcotxa [sic], giving us his name and surname, the car he uses (a blue Ford Escort, Bilbao license plate), as well as the place where he usually has breakfast “, says Mirena Martínez in his” self-criticism “.

Precisely, it has always been believed that the data on the head of the Basque Police was provided to ETA by one of the collaborators that the band had in the Ertzainzta. Kantauri had a relationship with these agents and one of them even hosted him at his home. In this sense, more than two decades ago, Arcocha’s indictment was reopened to prosecute Miguel Sueskun and Jesús Guergué, two ertzainas who were cooperating with the terrorists at the time of the murder. The Association of Victims of Terrorism accused both of providing information to the ETA members about the victim, but they were acquitted. The judges concluded in their sentence that, “ignoring who were the perpetrators of the attack”, it could not be considered proven that the two Basque police officers provided, “consciously and deliberately”, the data that “contributed to his death” .

In February 2020, the Central Court of Instruction 1 reopened the indictment again after the new police investigations into the “singing” and after the appearance of the victim’s daughter as an accusation. The Villacisneros Foundation, which collaborates in the resolution of the ETA crimes, affirmed: “35 years after the murder of the head of the Ertzaintza, getting the National High Court to reopen the case provokes mixed feelings. On the one hand, satisfaction that justice can finally be done. And, on the other, disappointment at the institutional neglect suffered by the victims of terrorism ”. In the order that reactivated the case, the magistrate also indicated that the possible involvement of María Soledad Iparraguirre, aliases, is being investigated. Anboto, which formed part of the Arab command.

Ten years after ETA announced “the definitive cessation of its armed activity”, the National Police and the Civil Guard have both active groups specialized in investigating unsolved crimes of the gang. In addition, the Prosecutor’s Office of the National Court created in 2018 a specific area to coordinate these investigations, headed by Marcelo Azcárraga. This representative of the public ministry, in statements to EL PAÍS, already expressed the firm commitment of these institutions to clarify these cases: “Crimes prescribe, but the right to the truth does not. For us, the prescription is the last thing. We started the investigation, we will try to find out who is responsible and then we will see ”.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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