Six Basque separatists ordered jailed over ETA links

17th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A judge in Spain Friday jailed six of nine people who were arrested in the first operation against the Basque separatist group ETA since it declared a ceasefire, court sources said.

Police detained the nine leaders of Ekin, an ETA support group that was declared illegal by Spain's National Court in 2007, in simultaneous raids overnight Monday to Tuesday in the northern Basque Country and the regions of Navarra, Cantabria and Aragon.

More than 300 police officers took part in the operation, searching 28 homes, bars and offices used by the suspects, three of whom were women.

Six of them appeared Friday before National Court Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who ordered them jailed for "involvement and cooperation with a terrorist organisation," the sources said.

They said the judge is to make a ruling on the other three on Saturday.

Ekin, formed in 1999, is considered by Spanish authorities as the "heart and entrails of ETA."

It acts as an organiser for the outfit, stirring up street protests and spreading the militants' message and orders, and helps ETA members on the run from police to evade capture, according to the interior ministry.

ETA declared a unilateral ceasefire in a video message on September 5, which was swiftly rejected by the Spanish government because it failed to promise a permanent end to violence.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has demanded that ETA give up weapons forever.

And the interior ministry has vowed to keep its hardline policy against the group.

ETA's decades-long campaign of bombing and shooting for a homeland independent of Spain has claimed more than 800 lives.

Listed as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006.

But in December 2006 it set off a bomb at a car park at Madrid's airport, killing two men. In June 2007 it formally called off its ceasefire citing a lack of concessions by the government in peace talks.

© 2010 AFP

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