Basque separatist leader goes on trial on new charge

11th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi went on trial on Thursday on a new charge of "glorifying terrorism," just weeks after calling on ETA to declare a permanent ceasefire.

The former spokesman for Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed separatist group ETA, refused to answer questions other than those from his own lawyer.

Prosecutors accuse Otegi and two colleagues of "glorifying terrorism" during a political meeting of Batasuna before 15,000 people in the Basque city of San Sebastian in 2004.

Otegi has denied the charges, saying he was merely trying "to put in black and white a proposal to allow for a peaceful resolution" of the Basque conflict.

Last March, he was condemned to two years in prison for glorifying terrorism in a separate case.

He risks a further 18 months in jail if convicted on the new charge.

The trial, which is to last until Friday, comes just weeks after Otegi called on ETA to declare a permanent ceasefire.

He told Spain's El Pais daily last month that if he had the ETA leadership before him, he would ask them to renounce violence and declare a "unilateral and permanent truce which can be verified by the international community."

"There is no other path to independence other than those that follow the peaceful and democratic paths," he told the newspaper.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

Its announcement in September of a truce has been met with scepticism from the Spanish government because it has broken such ceasefires without warning in the past.

© 2010 AFP

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