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Spain mourns 'ETA victim'

BARCELONA, Spain -- Up to 200,000 people have marched to show their anger at the murder of a policeman, blamed on Basque separatist group ETA.

Juan Miguel Gervilla, 38, a father of two, was shot in central Barcelona on Wednesday and would be ETA's 23rd victim this year.

The huge crowd filed into Barcelona's central plaza with many people hoisting anti-ETA banners reading "For liberty, against terrorism."

State radio estimated the crowd at 150,000, while Barcelona police put the figure as high as 200,000.

Authorities have left no doubt that they blame the killing on the group which has claimed 800 lives in its 32-year campaign for a Basque homeland straddling the French-Spanish border.

Leading politicians from Madrid and the Catalonia region surrounding Barcelona joined the crowd in what has become a solemn ritual after each killing.

"Life and liberty are our most precious values and we won't let anyone throw them away," police inspector Clara Fabregas told the crowd in one of a series of speeches.

 IN-DEPTH
graphic Basque conflict: Violence in Spain


  • Overview
  • Living in fear
  • Standing vigil
  • ETA background
  • Q&A on ETA
  • ETA timeline
  • Map: Violence
  • Video archive
  • Recent stories
 

Victim hailed as a hero

Earlier on Thursday, 3,000 people packed the square in front of Barcelona's city hall in a show of support for Gervilla's family and to condemn ETA.

Mourners hailed Gervilla a hero for stopping what could have been a bloodier attack.

The 14-year veteran of the municipal police force was shot twice in the head after approaching two young men pushing a car.

Authorities said they had been on their way to plant a bomb when their car broke down.

The killers fled on foot and 13kg (29 pounds) of explosives were later found in the boot of the abandoned vehicle.

Interior Minister Jaime Mayor Oreja said police were able to preserve evidence in the car that might help them track down an ETA commando operating in Barcelona.

ETA's past three assassinations have taken place in or near Spain's second-largest city, and there have been four murders and a failed car bombing in the region since September.

The group called off a 14-month ceasefire in December last year with 2000's alleged toll being the highest since 1992, when ETA killed 26 people.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
'ETA link' to Spain shooting
December 20, 2000
PM leads 'ETA-death' protest
December 15, 2000
ETA blamed for fatal car bombing
December 14, 2000
ETA: One of Europe's most feared separatist groups
August 8, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Spanish government (in Spanish)
Euskal Herritarok (in Basque)
Basque Red Net

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