Arrests in Spain during Basque separatist protest

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At least 24 people were detained Thursday during separatist protests in Spain's Basque region, police said.

14 February 2008

MADRID -At least 24 people were detained Thursday during separatist protests in Spain's Basque region, police said.

Separatist groups had called a one-day general strike to protest the detention of most of the leaders of the illegal separatist party Batasuna and moves to outlaw two other parties ahead of the 9 March legislative elections.

Batasuna is regarded as the political arm of the militant separatist group ETA.

The Basque regional government described the impact of the strike as insignificant.

Yet rallies called by the trade union LAB, which is close to Batasuna, brought together a total of about 7,000 people in San Sebastian, Vitoria and Bilbao.

Police arrested 24 people, mainly for trying to halt traffic or defying police.

Five of the detainees chained themselves to barrels of concrete, one of which started rolling and injured a passer-by in Bilbao.

Police also arrested two people who suspended themselves from a bridge above rail tracks in Sestao. In Bilbao, service was temporarily suspended on a subway line blocked by a burning barricade.

Rail traffic in Guipuzcoa province was interrupted for three hours after protesters cut an overhead cable.

In the town of Renteria, police charged against a group of people trying to force their way into the city hall, causing slight injuries to one of the protesters.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government has cracked down on ETA and related groups since its attempt to negotiate with ETA collapsed in late 2006.

Thirty-five Batasuna leaders or important representatives are in prison after new arrests on Friday. Only 12 members of the party's 2006 executive, including seven French citizens, are still free, according to figures quoted by the daily El Pais.

The judiciary has simultaneously moved to ban Basque Nationalist Action (ANV) and The Communist Party of Basque Lands (EHAK-PCTV) which emerged as successors of Batasuna after it was outlawed in 2003 for collaborating with a terrorist organisation.

ETA has killed more than 820 people in its campaign of four decades for an independent Basque state carved out of northern Spain and southern France.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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