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Spain will ask courts to rule on legality of new party

The Spanish government will ask courts to rule if a new party set up by the outlawed political wing of armed Basque separatists ETA that rejects violence is legal, Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said Monday.

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

The outlawed party has previously said it opposes violence without actually condemning ETA’s violent past.

The new party, which aims to contest local elections in May, “rejects and opposes the use of violence… including that of ETA,” Basque nationalist Rufi Etxeberria, an historic leader of Batasuna, announced earlier on Monday.

The new principles were enshrined in the new statutes of the party which Batasuna plans to present to Spain’s interior ministry later this week.

The ministry will send the statutes of the party to Spain’s attorney general’s office “so that they take whatever action they feel is opportune,” Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said.

“If this rejection of violence included in the statutes of the new party allow for the end of this situation of illegality or not, it is a decision that is up to judges,” he told a news conference in Spain’s Canary Islands.

Spain’s government has shown deep scepticism about Batasuna’s conversion; it demands that Batasuna convince ETA to disarm permanently and unconditionally or that it break with ETA completely.

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