Basques call for ETA jail conditions to be relaxed
The main Basque separatist party asked Spain's government Wednesday to put an end to special prison conditions that see members of the terror group ETA held in solitary confinement in jail.
The request came just days after ETA announced it had laid down its arms after four decades of violent conflict in its quest for the creation of an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwest France.
"ETA prisoners should have the same conditions as others," said Inigo Urkullu, president of the non-violent Basque Nationalist Party, after meeting with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Madrid.
Some 700 ETA members serving jail sentences in France and Spain are currently kept separately from other prisoners.
Now that ETA prisoners had lost their "raison d'etre", there is no need to continue with the previous "special measures", Urkullu said.
Calling for reconciliation between the Spanish government and Basque nationalists, Urkullu said: "Here in the Basque country, we are facing a transition from being a society that has suffered from terrorism to one that is now trying to overcome it once and for all."
The PNV president also called on ETA's armed wing -- blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people -- to take responsibility for its past actions.
"The radical left must recognise its victims and take responsibility for the violence that has been done," he said.
It is believed that ETA's announcement will give new impetus to the Basque cause. Thousands of people marched in the city of Bilbao at the weekend to demand independence and an amnesty for ETA prisoners.
But Spain's Socialist government, still erring on the side of caution, says it will not be changing its policy on anti-terrorism before a general election scheduled for November 20, its communication minister Ramon Jauregui said.
Right-wing candidate Mariano Rajoy, who is widely expected to win, has said he will refuse "all dialogue" with ETA.
Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, candidate for the Socialist party, said he would oppose any moves to move ETA prisoners closer together.
© 2011 AFP