Banned ETA group seeks legal status for new party

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The outlawed political wing of armed Basque separatists ETA on Wednesday presented the statutes of a new party it hopes Spanish authorities will allow to contest elections.

Batasuna announced on Monday its rebirth as a new party that rejects violence and intends to take part in municipal elections in the northern Basque Country in May.

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.

Eight representatives of the proposed new party, to be named Sortu, on Wednesday submitted the statutes to the interior ministry in Madrid, which has 20 days to decide whether to transfer them to the attorney general if it has doubts over the legality of the entity.

The attorney general can in turn send the statutes to the Supreme Court, which would have the final word.

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

A spokesman for Sortu, Inaki Zabaleta, Wednesday said the party "has the right to be legal" as "it fulfills all the democratic conditions."

Basque nationalist Rufi Etxeberria, an historic leader of Batasuna, said in announcing the new party on Monday that it "rejects and opposes the use of violence... including that of ETA...

"This is a direct consequence of our commitment to take exclusively political and democratic routes."

© 2011 AFP

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