Arrests leave ETA's political wing leaderless
Two senior members of banned Basque party Batasuna held5 February 2008
MADRID - Police on Monday effectively decapitated ETA's outlawed political wing Batasuna, arresting its only two senior leaders who had remained at liberty until now as a High Court probe into links between Basque separatist politicians and the ETA terrorist group intensified.
Pernando Barrena, the spokesman of the radical party, and Patxi Urrutia, a member of Batasuna's national council, were arrested at their homes in the Navarran town of Berriozar and in the regional capital of Pamplona, respectively. High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón, who ordered the rounding up of 20 senior Batasuna officials last October, accuses the two men of membership of a terrorist organisation and of failing to obey a Supreme Court ban on Batasuna's activities.
Their arrest comes two days after they appeared at a rally in Pamplona on Saturday and declared that "no matter what the circumstances" Batasuna will be present in the general election on 9 March. The party has long attempted to undermine its outlawing and maintain a presence in Basque politics through surrogate organisations.
Two groups suspected of being backed by Batasuna, Basque Nationalist Action (ANV) and the Communist Party of the Basque Lands (PCTV-EHAK), are currently at the centre of another case that is expected to lead to them being suspended before the election.
PCTV representatives appeared before Judge Garzón yesterday, arguing that there is no reason or evidence to warrant enacting a five-year ban as sought by prosecutors. ANV representatives are due to appear before Garzón today.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / A. EATWELL 2008]
Subject: Spanish news