Basque party urges concessions for ETA prisoners
The main Basque political party asked Spain's government Wednesday to put an end to special prison conditions that see members of armed separatist group ETA held far away from their homes.
The request came after ETA last week declared an end to its armed activity following a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings in its quest for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwest France.
"ETA prisoners should have the same conditions as others," Inigo Urkullu, leader of the Basque Nationalist Party, told reporters after meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Madrid.
Communication Minister Ramon Jauregui responded that Spain's centre-left government will not change its stance on ETA before a general election scheduled for November 20.
Right-wing opposition leader Mariano Rajoy, who is widely expected to win the election, has said he will refuse any dialogue with ETA.
Some 700 ETA members are currently serving jail sentences in France and Spain. Many of them are in prisons far away from the Basque country to stop them coordinating.
ETA is blamed for the killings of more than 800 people.
Urkullu said there is no need to continue with the "special measures" for its prisoners now that ETA is no longer waging an armed campaign.
ETA declared last week a "definitive" end to armed activity but said nothing about giving up its weapons nor disbanding, as the Spanish government had previously demanded.
The movement also called on the Spanish and French governments to hold talks with it.
ETA's announcement has raised the prospect of increased clout for Basque political groups.
"Here in the Basque country, we are facing a transition from being a society that has suffered from terrorism to one that is now trying to overcome it once and for all," Urkullu said.
He called for the former political wing of ETA to recognise the armed group's victims.
"The radical left must recognise its victims and take responsibility for the violence that has been done," he said.
© 2011 AFP