Basque separatist leader Otegi on trial in Spain
The former leader of the banned Basque independence party Batasuna, Arnaldo Otegi, went on trial Monday in Spain on charges of trying to rebuild the political wing of armed group ETA.
Otegi told the Madrid court presiding over his trial that he and six other Basque separatists in the dock alongside him had rejected ETA's use of arms and now advocated a strictly "political" strategy to achieve an independent Basque homeland.
"It is not possible to accumulate sufficient strength to achieve our objectives if we maintained the armed struggle," he told the court.
Batasuna was outlawed in 2003 for its links with ETA, which is held responsible for nearly 830 deaths in a 41-year campaign for independence for the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France.
In January ETA, considered a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, announced a permanent, verifiable ceasefire.
But Spain's government rejected the offer, demanding the group go further and disband entirely.
Considered to be severely weakened by the arrests of a number of top leaders in recent years, the group has not carried out an attack on Spanish soil since August 2009.
© 2011 AFP