Thousands in Spain protest 'ETA newspaper' trials

20th December 2009, Comments 0 comments

Thousands of people in northern Spain marched on Saturday in support of five executives of a Basque-language newspaper who are on trial for allegedly supporting the armed separatist group ETA.

Madrid - Thousands of people in northern Spain marched on Saturday in support of five executives of a Basque-language newspaper who are on trial for allegedly supporting the armed separatist group ETA.

The demonstrators marched through the streets of Bilbao, the Basque region's financial centre, behind a large black and white banner that read "Freedom for Egunkaria", images on Spanish television showed.

In February 2003 Spanish police shut down the daily Basque-language newspaper Egunkaria -- which means "newspaper" in the Basque language -- and arrested the five executives of the paper, including its editor-in-chief.

Their trial began earlier this week at the National Audience, Spain's top criminal court.

Spanish government officials say Egunkaria had been created and financed by ETA which used it to launder money obtained from extortion and kidnapping as well as to disseminate the armed group's violent ideology.

ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths in a 41-year campaign of bombings and shootings for independence in the Basque region of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Three former leaders of the Basque regional government -- Juan Jose Ibarretxe, Jose Antonio Ardanza and Carlos Garaikoetxea -- as well as several leading Basque authors took part in the demonstration, according to the online edition of daily newspaper El Mundo.

Radical Basque separatist parties draw support from approximately 10 percent of Spain's Basque voters.

AFP/Expatica

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