Batasuna leadership to stand trial for terrorism

24th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

24 October 2006, MADRID — Spain's national court ruled on Tuesday dozens of leaders of Batasuna must stand trial on charges of belonging to ETA.

24 October 2006

MADRID — Spain's national court ruled on Tuesday dozens of leaders of Batasuna must stand trial on charges of belonging to ETA.

The ruling came as Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero pursues preliminary contacts with ETA in pursuit of lasting peace following the terrorist organization's declaration last March of a "permanent" cease-fire.

The national court, which handles high-profile cases dealing mostly with terrorism and corruption, backed a judge's previous ruling that the Batasuna party was in effect the political wing of ETA and integrally linked to the armed group.

It ruled that enough evidence exists to proceed with the trial of Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi and 37 other party leaders.

The case centres on the so-called "herriko taverns," bars where radical Basques meet to drink, socialize and talk about, among other things, their desire to break away from Spain.

With the ruling, the Spanish judiciary backs the executive branch's finding that the bars were created by ETA, by way of Batasuna, with the objective of raising monies for armed separatist activity.

Batasuna was declared an illegal organization in August 2002.

Judicial actions against ETA and Batasuna militants have proceeded apace during these past months of cease-fire, including trials and convictions of high-profile captured terrorists blamed for bombings, kidnappings and murder.

Otegi, a former ETA militant, was himself sentenced last April to 15 months in jail for providing rhetorical justification for terrorism.

On Monday, the supreme court ordered police to raid the herriko taverns, seize their books for audit and carry out inventories of their property and funds.

Zapatero said last month that there "are conditions" for continuing the peace process in the Basque Country,  saying his government would move ahead "with prudence, common sense and firmness".

The Basque region enjoys significant autonomy and is governed by the PNV, a moderate nationalist party that, like the great majority of Basques, rejects ETA and terrorist violence.

ETA declared a permanent ceasefire on March 22 that took effect two days later.

ETA, an acronym for the Basque language words for Homeland and Freedom, has killed 817 people since taking up arms in 1968 to seek a Basque nation comprising parts of northern Spain and southern France.

The terrorist group historically used funds generated by extortion rackets against business owners in the Basque region and other parts of Spain to fund its operations.

ETA has attacked military or police personnel, as well as politicians, journalists and government officials using bombs or shootings.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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