Basque prime minister in dock for Batasuna talks

31st October 2007, Comments 0 comments

31 October 2007, MADRID - (AFP) - A Basque court Tuesday declared that the head of the regional government must stand trial for meeting with leaders of the banned political wing of the armed separatist group ETA, judicial sources said.

31 October 2007

MADRID - (AFP) - A Basque court Tuesday declared that the head of the regional government must stand trial for meeting with leaders of the banned political wing of the armed separatist group ETA, judicial sources said.

Judge Roberto Saiz of the Basque superior court ordered Juan Jose Ibarretxe to stand trial along with the head of the Basque branch of Spain's governing Socialist Party, Patxi Lopez, for meeting with leaders of Batasuna in defiance of a ban on ETA's political wing.

No date was set for the trial, which is contrary to the recommendations of prosecutors who declared that no action should be taken against the pair.

The judge said he saw no reason to dismiss the case, and that there were, "on the contrary, indications of a crime."

Batasuna has been banned since 2003 for refusing to condemn violence and cut its links to ETA, which has killed 819 people during almost four decades of fighting for Basque independence.

Both Batasuna and ETA are considered terrorist organisations by the European Union and the United States.

Almost the entire leadership of Batasuna was arrested on October 4 at a meeting in the Basque Country, in northern Spain.

Ibarretxe, a member of the moderate Basque National Party, is alleged to have met Batasuna leaders several times in 2006 and 2007, in particular with Arnaldo Otegi, who was jailed in June for the crime of "glorifying terrorism."

At a preliminary hearing last March, Ibarretxe said he had promised Basque citizens he would "talk to everyone" to find a solution to the Basque problem.

"I did indeed meet ... leaders of Batasuna. I continue to do so in fact, and I will continue to do so in the future," he said.

Ibarretxe last month unveiled plans to hold two referendums in the Basque Country from October 2008 as part of a "road map" for a new political framework for the region with the rest of Spain.

The plan was rejected by the Socialist government of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero.

The prime minister tried unsuccessfully to resolve the Basque problem in 2006. But he has taken a hard line against the separatists since ETA called off a 15-month-old ceasefire in June.

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Subject: Spanish news

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