Batasuna march tests new political climate
10 April 2006, SAN SEBASTIAN — The leader of Batasuna, the banned political arm of ETA, took part in a peaceful demonstration with thousands of supporters in a test of the new political atmosphere in Spain.
10 April 2006
SAN SEBASTIAN — The leader of Batasuna, the banned political arm of ETA, took part in a peaceful demonstration with thousands of supporters in a test of the new political atmosphere in Spain.
The march was called to protest against the banning of a political event that had been planned by Batasuna.
This was Arnaldo Otegi's first public act since being released from jail on Friday after paying EUR 250,000 bail imposed by National Court Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska.
Otegi is accused of instigating acts of vandalism during a strike last month in the Basque Country over the deaths of two imprisoned ETA members.
The judge also imposed bail amounts of EUR 200,000 each on two other radical Basque leaders Juan Maria Olano and Juan Jose Petrikorena, who had been jailed on the same charges as Otegi and who were released from Madrid's Soto del Real prison at the same time as the Batasuna chief.
Sunday's march, which was headed by a banner in Basque which read, 'For civil and political rights', was attended by thousands of people who chanted slogans in favour of independence for the Basque Country.
They also called the transfer of imprisoned ETA members to the region. Many are kept in jails a long way from the Basque Country.
The protest was called on Friday after Judge Grande-Marlaska banned the event that Batasuna had intended to hold Sunday in San Sebastian to present its political proposal.
On 1 April, thousands of demonstrators had gathered in the streets of Bilbao calling for the start of political negotiations with the Spanish government to guarantee Basques the right to self-determination.
That march was the first to be held in the Basque Country since the permanent cease-fire declared on 22 March by ETA raised expectations about an eventual process of dialogue to end violence once and for all.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised to begin a dialogue with ETA and resolve the conflict with all political factions of the Basque region, once the terrorists' have shown they will lay down their arms for good.
Since taking office in April 2004, Zapatero has been laying the groundwork for a peace process, getting parliament's approval for contacts with ETA if the group renounces violence and authorizing the Socialist leader in the Basque region, Jesus Eguiguren, to hold discreet conversations with Otegi.
The Zapatero administration has had informal contacts with ETA going back to August 2004, when, according to the Spanish daily El Pais, the armed group sent the government a letter requesting the establishment of two-way communications.
[Copyright EFE with Expatica]
Subject: Spanish news