Spain asks court to ban new Basque party

3rd March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's government asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to outlaw a new Basque pro-independence party called Sortu, arguing it is an extension of the banned political wing of the armed separatist group ETA.

Sortu was launched by people close to Batasuna, ETA's outlawed political wing, on February 7 as a new party that rejects violence and is committed to fighting for independence through purely political means.

It wants to take part in municipal elections in the Basque region in May.

Batasuna has been ruled illegal since 2003 because of its links to ETA, whose bloody campaign of bombings and shootings for a Basque homeland independent of Spain has been blamed for 829 deaths in more than four decades.

Spain's central government has voiced doubts over the legality of Sortu, and said it would be up to the courts to make a decision.

The government believes Sortu is "an extension of Batasuna", Joaquin de Fuentes Bardaji, a senior justice department lawyer, told reporters after filing the request with the Supreme Court asking that the party be banned.

In the request to have Sortu banned, government lawyers argue based on police reports that the party's rejection of violence "is cosmetic, rhetorical, not real."

The Supreme Court now has 20 days to decide if Sortu is legal or not.

ETA on January 10 declared a "permanent and general ceasefire" to be verified by the international community.

But Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero rejected the declaration, saying he wanted nothing less than ETA's dissolution, and the authorities have vowed to hunt down ETA members.

Spanish police arrested four suspected ETA bombers on Tuesday and seized about 200 kilogrammes (396 pounds) of explosives as part of the operation in the harshest blow against the group since it declared its latest ceasefire.

ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 within the framework of negotiations with Madrid. But nine months later, it set off a bomb in the carpark of Madrid-Barajas airport, killing two men.

© 2011 AFP

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