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Court Says No Proof Linking Gonzalez to Anti-ETA Death Squads

April 30, 1996

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ The Supreme Court cleared outgoing Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez on Tuesday of charges that his government sanctioned death squads that hunted down suspected Basque terrorists in the 1980s.

Allegations that Gonzalez’s government sponsored the Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups were a key reason voters in March elections sent the Socialists packing after 13 years in office.

Ruling for the court, Judge Eduardo Moner said his investigation found ``no facts or substantiated evidence″ to support testimony by a former Socialist party official that Gonzalez was behind the hit squads that hunted down Basque separatists in the mid-1980s.

Gonzalez denied involvement in the death squads but was forced to call elections a year ahead of schedule when an allied party withdrew its backing for the minority Socialist government because of the scandal.

The prime minister’s office said Gonzalez would not comment on the ruling.

Popular Party leader Jose Maria Aznar, who will be sworn in as prime minister Sunday, had called on Gonzalez to resign because of the accusations.

Death squads killed 27 people in a campaign against the militant Basque separatist group ETA. The squads, which have been linked to Spanish security forces, pursued alleged ETA members to southern France. Eight of their victims had no ties to ETA.

In January, Moner indicted former Interior Minister Jose Barrionuevo and former state security chief Rafael Vera, saying they organized the death squads and directed their operations. Their trials are pending.

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