Terror suspect planned Madrid bombings: report

Terror suspect planned Madrid bombings: report

Arrested In Quebec

Stewart Bell And Graeme Hamilton, National Post Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A suspected Basque separatist arrested in Canada last year planned two car bombings while serving in an ETA cell that terrorized Madrid for 21 months, a federal immigration report says.

Ivan Apaolaza Sancho, 36, “participated in the development of two attempted car bombings” that targeted Spanish justice officials, says the Citizenship and Immigration Canada document.

Bothassassinationattempts failed but the report says during Mr. Sancho’s months with ETA’s Commando Madrid cell “several terrorist attacks were committed” and the group collected information on future targets.

The RCMP arrested Mr. Sancho near Quebec City last June, alleging he is a wanted foreign terrorist and has lived in British Columbia for almost six years under the false name Jose Perales-Herrera.

Canadian immigration authorities are now attempting to deport him to Spain, where he is wanted for attempted assassination, auto theft, membership in an armed group and possession of explosives and arms.

ETA has killed more than 800 people and carried out 1,600 bombings, assassinations, kidnappings and other attacks as part of its long-running fight for an independent homeland for Spain‘s Basque minority.

In Montreal on Friday, Mr. Sancho’s legal team lost a bid to stop his deportation proceedings on the grounds that Canadian authorities had produced no evidence he was a member of ETA.

Lawyer William Sloan had asked to see copies of a fingerprint belonging to Mr. Sancho that Spanish authorities say was found inside an ETA safe house northwest of Madrid in 2001.

He also sought other documentary evidence the Spaniards claim to have. The material was never produced at Mr. Sancho’s hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Louis Dube, the IRB member hearing the case, told a hearing on Friday that he is satisfied he has received enough evidence to decide the case on its merits.

Mr. Sloan said he intends to put the Spanish government on trial when the hearing resumes on Feb. 29. “They cheat. They lie. They torture. They assassinate,” Mr. Sloan said of the Spanish authorities.

“So you cannot take their word for it when they say that someone is a member of the ETA. They have to show something else. If they claim to have evidence, let’s see it. If they won’t show it, it’s because they don’t have it.”

Following a request by the National Post, the IRB released most of the government’s file on Mr. Sancho. It consists largely of background material on ETA, but included in the dossier is Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s “referral” report detailing why he is considered a member of a terrorist group and a person who has engaged in terrorism.

The report says between May and September, 1999, Mr. Sancho lived in an apartment in France with five other members of ETA and underwent firearms and explosives training.

At the instruction of ETA, he returned to Spain and lived at an apartment in Salamanca that served as a meeting place for planning attacks, as well as a storage cache for munitions, arms and explosives, the report says.

While at the Salamanca apartment, Mr. Sancho planned the assassinations of Paulino Martin Martin and Blanca Rodriguez Garcia, a superior court prosecutor, it says. The cell committed many attacks between Jan. 21, 2000, and October, 2001, the report says.

Spain issued an international arrest warrant for Mr. Sancho on Dec. 3, 2001, but by then he had fled to Canada. He lived at an apartment in Vancouver with his girlfriend and got a job as a carpenter at an antique reproduction company, while she worked as a house cleaner.

While living in B.C., he befriended another alleged ETA member, Victor Bilbao, wanted in Spain for the attempted assassination of a Basque newspaper manager. He also met a wanted Spanish terrorist named Mario Ines Torres, better known as Lolo the Gypsy singer.

Despite being wanted, all three men lived freely for years in B.C. until 2006, when Mr. Torres fled to avoid a deportation hearing. Last June, Mr. Bilbao was arrested in Vancouver and Mr. Sancho was picked up days later in Quebec.

sbell@nationalpost.com

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