Mass opposition to charging of Basque leader

30th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

30 January 2007, BILBAO — The Basque regional prime minister is to appear in court for the first time charged with meeting leaders of a terrorist organisation.

30 January 2007

BILBAO — The Basque regional prime minister is to appear in court for the first time charged with meeting leaders of a terrorist organisation.

Juan Jose Ibarretxe, who will appear on Wednesday in Bilbao, faces charges over the meeting held last April.

Tens of thousands of people marched in Bilbao on Monday to demand the quashing of the criminal case Ibarretxe for the meeting with the outlawed political wing of the violent separatist group ETA.

Bilbao authorities estimated at roughly 45,000 the turnout on behalf of Ibarretxe, who heads a moderate nationalist coalition which rejects ETA's violence and terror tactics but maintains that talks with Batasuna are necessary to achieve a permanent settlement in the region.

Walking behind a banner reading - in both Basque and Spanish - "In defence of our institutions" were the senior figures of the parties in the governing coalition, officials of the current administration and former regional presidents Jose Antonio Ardanza and Carlos Garaikoetxea.

At the end of the procession, Ardanza and Garaikoetxea read Basque and Spanish versions of a statement denouncing the case brought against Ibarretxe as "clear political interference" and judicial usurpation.

Last April, the month after ETA declared what was supposed to be a permanent cease-fire, Ibarretxe met with representatives of the Batasuna party, which was outlawed for its links to the armed militants who have killed 800 people since 1968 in their campaign to create an independent Basque nation in parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

The cease-fire was shattered last month when ETA bombed Madrid airport, killing two people.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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