Dissident ETA prisoners moved to Basque jails: report

11th December 2008, Comments 0 comments

A Spanish newspaper reports that 10 prisoners who denounced the Basque separatist group’s current violence strategy have been moved closer to home.

MADRID – Spain has transferred 10 prisoners ousted from the Basque separatist group ETA for renouncing its violent tactics to Basque region jails, a Spanish newspaper reported Wednesday.

The decision to put prisoners opposed to violence closer to their home territory and families was intended to encourage ETA dissidents, the centre-right El Mundo daily said.

The transfers began on 15 October and involve "10 important and longtime members" of ETA, including former leader Francisco Mugica, the newspaper said, citing sources in the prison administration and the interior ministry.

Both agencies declined to confirm the paper's report, when contacted by AFP.

Most of the transferred prisoners said they rejected "ETA's current strategy of violence" and took positions "in favour of dialogue and negotiation to put an end to the so-called Basque conflict," which led to their being expelled from ETA, the paper wrote.

The paper also reported that the Socialist government received support for the prisoner transfer plan from the main opposition conservative Popular Party.

ETA, considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States, is blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people in its 40-year campaign of bombings and shootings to carve a Basque homeland out of parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Questioned by reporters, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba implied the policy was in place without confirming the newspaper report outright.

"Penitentiary policy is also a tool of anti-terrorism policy," he told a joint news conference with his visiting Portuguese counterpart Rui Pereira.

"ETA prisoners change jails, that is a usual policy, all prisoners change jails, not just those belonging to ETA. Some may go to jails that are closer, others may go to jails that are further away," he added.

The minister refused to explain what criteria would lead to a prisoner being moved to a jail closer to home.

Since mid-October, 10 jailed ETA members have been transferred to jails closer to the Basque region and up to 20 in total could benefit from the policy, El Mundo said, citing unidentified prison sources.

"The majority of those who have benefited from this measure have rejected the strategy of violence adopted by the terrorist group and have adopted positions in favour of dialogue and negotiation to end what they call the Basque conflict," it said.

ETA members are dispersed in jails throughout Spain, with some held as far away as the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco.

Family members of the prisoners and supporters of Basque independence routinely demand that they be moved to jails closer to home under the slogan ""Euskal presoak - Euskal Herrira" or "Basque prisoners to the Basque Country".

[AFP / Expatica]

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