Hunted Basque separatists join ETA: report

22nd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

About 10 Basque separatists fleeing from the Spanish police has joined ETA, reports newspaper.

MADRID – Some 10 Basque separatists allegedly hunted by police declared they had joined ETA in a statement published Sunday, amid a stepped-up crackdown on the armed separatist group in France and Spain.

"Like many people before, we have taken the decision to take up arms and to join Euskadi ta Askatasuna," the formal name of ETA, the group said in a statement published in the Basque newspaper Gara.

The 10 separatists, who described themselves as "activists of the leftist independence" movement, claimed they had no previous membership in ETA. They also said they had been forced to flee from police who were hunting them down.

The newspaper did not identify them by name, but it published a photo of four of them.

The ETA is held responsible for the deaths of more than 800 people during its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque state in parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

French and Spanish police have arrested a number of suspected ETA members in recent months, including three of the organisation's leaders.

In remarks published Sunday, the former head of ETA's political wing Batasuna blasted the "persecution" which radical separatists allegedly endured.

But Arnaldo Otegi, who was released from jail in August after serving a 15-month term for glorifying terrorism, notably called on supporters to adhere to a new peace process "without delay," following the collapse of talks last year between ETA and the government.

Otegi also called for creating a coalition of leftist, separatist-minded politicians, appearing to respond to an appeal to Batasuna by centre-left nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna.

The party had called for such a movement ahead of Basque regional elections next March - but only if Batasuna distanced itself from ETA's violence, which Otegi has so far refrained from doing.

[AFP / Expatica]

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