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SPAIN DENIES IT HAS WITHHELD EVIDENCE IN DEATH SQUAD PROBE

SHARE SPAIN DENIES IT HAS WITHHELD EVIDENCE IN DEATH SQUAD PROBE

The government has offered its first detailed response to charges that senior officials were involved in anti-terrorist death squads and denied Friday it had withheld information from an ongoing judicial inquiry.

"If the slightest shred of evidence existed regarding the issue being investigated, I personally would have delivered it to the court," Juan Alberto Belloch, the justice and interior minister, told parliament.Opposition politicians on the judiciary committee grilled Belloch for four hours on what the government knew about the Anti-Terrorist Liberation Groups, known as GAL.

Belloch said the government won't give an opinion on the GAL accusations so as not to interfere with the judicial proceedings.

Until they conclude, he said, it will be impossible to predict whether his ministry will charge "corrupt civil servants" in connection with GAL or sue others for false allegations.

Still, his remarks were the most detailed response yet by the government in a month of growing political pressure over the case.

Between 1983 and 1986, the GAL took responsibility for the killings in France of 23 people whom it said were linked to the armed Basque separatist group ETA.

GAL activities stopped when French authorities began expatriating ETA suspects to Spain.

Ending the ETA's violent campaign for independence for Spain's three Basque provinces has been a top government priority since Spain returned to democracy in 1977.

Two former policemen, Jose Amedo Fouce and Michel Dominguez, were convicted in 1991 of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the GAL. A judge reopened the case this month, and Amedo and Dominguez implicated two former Cabinet members and a former national security chief in GAL operations.

Amedo and Dominguez's testimony led to the jailing of former national security chief Julian Sancristobal and two other former security officials.