MADRID, Spain (AP) _ A military tribunal convicted a former head of Spain’s spy agency today of leaking documents about a campaign against Basque separatists and sentenced him to seven years in prison.
Investigators suspect the leaked documents dealt with plans to create the death squads, which killed 27 people from 1983-87. The squads targeted members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA in their haven in southern France.
Col. Juan Alberto Perote, who ran the clandestine operations section of the government’s CESID spy agency in the mid-1980s, was arrested in June 1995 and served 21 months in prison before being freed on bail in April.
His lawyer’s office said Perote is unlikely to return to jail because of the time served before trial.
The Socialist government under former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez was ousted in elections last year partly because of voter anger over the death squad scandal.
Revelations about the death squads, and CESID’s phone tapping of King Juan Carlos, led to the resignations of Socialist Deputy Prime Minister Narcis Serra, Defense Minister Garcia Vargas and CESID director Emilio Manglano.
Perote claimed throughout his trial that Gonzalez knew about the death squads but did nothing to stop them. Gonzalez has repeatedly denied his government was behind the squads, which operated under the name Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups, or GAL,
The Supreme Court last year indicted Gonzalez’s former interior minister, Jose Barrionuevo, accusing him of directing the death squads. His trial is pending. Barrionuevo’s second-in-command also stands charged in the case.
The intelligence documents leaked by Perote were published in Spanish newspapers. Although they discussed covert operations against Basques hiding out in France, they did not mention Gonzalez by name or discuss assassinating people.
The death squads targeted members of ETA, which since 1968 has killed almost 800 people in its fight for independence of northern Spain’s Basque region.
The GAL killings stopped after France began extraditing members of ETA _ an acronym for Basque Homeland and Liberty _ back to Spain.