Dutch police arrest suspect in Spanish politician's shooting

Spain's Vox party co-founder Vidal-Quadras attends protest against PM Sanchez in Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) - Police in the Netherlands have arrested the suspected gunman in the shooting of a right-wing Spanish politician linked to an Iranian opposition group on a Madrid street last November, Spanish police said on Wednesday.

The man, a Frenchman of Tunisian origin with a criminal record, is the sixth suspect to have been arrested during the investigation of the attempted murder, including one in Colombia.

Alejo Vidal-Quadras, 79, who survived the attack, was shot in the face on a pavement in the wealthy neighbourhood of Salamanca in central Madrid in broad daylight on Nov. 9 by a gunman wearing a helmet and riding pillion on a motorbike. The bullet passed through his jaw.

Vidal-Quadras is the former leader of the conservative People's Party in the Catalonia region and a founder of the far-right Vox party.

"Dutch agents have arrested in the Netherlands the alleged perpetrator of the shooting against Alejo Vidal-Quadras in Madrid," Spanish police said in a statement posted on X. It did not give his name.

He was arrested under an international warrant issued by a Spanish court, it added. Police identified the suspect using CCTV footage from the area.

A Spanish anti-terrorism court is in charge of the investigation.

Dutch police did not reply to a request for comment.

The suspect is also wanted in France in relation to the killing of a drug trafficker, a judicial source told Reuters.

The politician has accused the Iranian government of hiring hitmen to assassinate him because of his links with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the main opposition group in exile.

"So far the people arrested were secondary, but the (alleged) hitman is a significant part and the police will certainly question him to find the people who are behind the attack," Vidal-Quadras told Reuters.

He said he has "absolute certainty" the Iranian government was behind it, even though he has no evidence. There has been no comment from Iran - which considers the Council a terrorist organisation - on the accusation.

Vidal-Quadras has called for a change in EU policy towards the Islamic Republic, saying the bloc should avoid trying to "appease, to negotiate, to dialogue and to make concessions".

Vidal-Quadras was included on an Iranian sanctions list issued in October 2022 in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd arrested for allegedly flouting Iran's mandatory dress code.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro, editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)