Police arrest 22 members of illegal Basque party

5th October 2007, Comments 0 comments

5 October 2007 , MADRID- AFP - Spanish police detained 22 senior members of Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, as they met in the Basque town of Segura, a judicial source told AFP.

5 October 2007

MADRID- AFP - Spanish police detained 22 senior members of Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, as they met in the Basque town of Segura, a judicial source told AFP.

Madrid's top anti-terrorist judge Baltasar Garzon, who ordered their arrest, suspects the meeting was aimed at transferring power to a new leaders in the party which has been weakened by a series of recent detentions, the source said.

Among those held is Joseba Permach, who has acted as one of Batasuna's main spokesmen since the arrest in June of the group's leader Arnaldo Otegi for the crime of "glorifying terrorism."

The 22 are expected to be transferred to Madrid where they will be questioned by Garzon over the weekend, the source said.

Spain's attorney general Candido Conde Pumpido welcomed the arrests, saying some of those held were accused of cooperating with an armed group.

"These activities (meetings) cannot be tolerated, so if the police find out about them, as they did in this case in Segura, it seems prudent that they be ordered to intervene," he told public radio RNE.

Spanish police on Tuesday detained two members of Batasuna, including its international spokesman Joseba Alvarez, in the Basque town of San Sebastian.

Batasuna has been banned as a party since 2003 for refusing to condemn violence and sever its links to ETA. It won 10 percent of the vote in regional elections in 2001 and around 20 percent in 1999 municipal elections.

Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has taken a hardline against ETA since the armed group broke a March 2006 ceasefire with the bombing of Madrid's airport last December, killing two men.

ETA officially called off the ceasefire in June and resumed attacks in August with a car bombing outside police barracks in the northern city of Durango that injured two officers.

The group has killed 819 people in nearly four decades of armed struggle for independence of Basque territories which they say include parts of northern Spain and southwest France.

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Subject: Spanish news

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