Basque prisoners demand return to homeland
Jailed Basque separatists will formally demand to be transferred to prisons in their homeland now that ETA independence fighters have vowed to end decades of violence, they said Saturday.
The prisoners' grouping EPPK said it hoped the transfer would be a step towards greater Basque political representation, in declarations published in the Basque newspaper Gara, a regular mouthpiece for ETA.
"To make our active and positive contribution to the political process we must be brought together in the Basque Country," the newspaper quoted the group as saying.
Citing a statement by the group, the newspaper added that "each one of the members of EPPK will request in the coming days to be transferred to the Basque Country."
Some 700 members of ETA are in jails in France and Spain for involvement in the group which is blamed for 829 deaths over a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent Basque homeland.
They have been held in far-flung prisons to prevent them from coordinating -- a policy that the prisoners' grouping said was "tripping up the political process."
ETA declared in October that it was ending its armed activity and later said it may surrender its arms, raising the prospect of a greater role for Basque political groups.
Spain's outgoing Socialists and the conservative opposition Popular Party, which won power in a November 20 election, have both ruled out negotiating with ETA, demanding it disband without conditions and apologise to its victims.
In the election, a coalition of Basque nationalist parties secured a presence in the national parliament for the left-wing independence movement for the first time in 15 years, winning seven seats.
The prisoners' grouping on Saturday reiterated its demand that prisoners who are ill or eligible for parole be freed and urged the governments of France and Spain to "give a positive response without delay."
© 2011 AFP