Basque separatist leader, eight others arrested

14th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The ex-leader of Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed separatist group ETA, and eight other militants were arrested for attempting to rebuild the party, say sources.

San Sebastian – Police in Spain's northern Basque Country Tuesday arrested an ex-leader of Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed separatist group ETA, and eight other militants accused of seeking to rebuild the party, judicial and police sources said.

Former Batasuna spokesman Arnaldo Otegi was held in the city of San Sebastian along with a top union leader and three other Basque militants suspected of having tried to "reform the leadership of Batasuna on the instructions of ETA," a judicial source said.

The interior ministry said later that four other "leaders of the independentist left" had been picked up, two in the Basque town of Hernani and two in Pamplona.

Batasuna was banned in 2003 because of its supposed links with ETA, which is held responsible for 828 deaths in a 41-year campaign for independence for the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Police made the first arrests after a secret meeting at the Basque independence union LAB headquarters, the judicial source said. The operation was ordered by Madrid anti-terrorist judge Baltasar Garzon.

Those arrested included the secretary general of the LAB union, Rafael Diez Usabiaga, a well-known figure in the Basque independence movement, the judicial source said.

The group of Basque separatists has been meeting secretly at the union headquarters since the beginning of the year, according to anti-terror sources cited by the Europa Press agency.

In the past few months, Otegi has made several trips to southern France, another ETA base, where he is suspected of meeting with other leaders of the outlawed organisation, the sources told the agency.

Otegi was last jailed in June 2007 after the Supreme Court upheld a 15-month sentence for "glorifying terrorism" for praising veteran ETA leader Jose Miguel Benaran Ordenana at a memorial service in 2003.

Earlier in October, a Spanish judge ordered him to again stand trial for "glorifying terrorism" five years ago.

AFP / Expatica

0 Comments To This Article