Basque separatist leader sent for trial again

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A Spanish judge ordered Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi to stand trial for "glorifying terrorism", for attending a meeting of his banned Batasuna party nearly five years ago.

Madrid - A Spanish judge ordered Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi to stand trial for "glorifying terrorism", for attending a meeting of his banned Batasuna party nearly five years ago.

Since the rally in San Sebastian in November 2004, Otegi has served more than a year in jail for a similar offence committed in 2003.

A court source said he would be tried this time along with two other chiefs of Batasuna, which is considered the political wing of the armed separatist movement ETA, Joseba Permach and Joseba Alvarez.

Ortegi is viewed as one of the main sponsors of the moves towards dialogue between ETA and Spain's left-wing government in 2006. ETA finally sank the process with a bomb attack at Madrid airport at the end of that year.

Batasuna was banned in 2003 because of its supposed links with ETA, which is held responsible for 828 deaths in a 41-year campaign for independence for the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Otegi was last jailed in June 2007 after the Supreme Court upheld a 15-month sentence for "glorifying terrorism" for praising veteran ETA leader Jose Miguel Benaran Ordenana at a memorial service in 2003.

Last August Spain banned him from leaving for France, ostensibly to take some holiday. Madrid suspects him of attempting to set up a new political party to fight Basque municipal elections in 2011.

In March the European Court of Human Rights upheld Spain's decision to ban Batasuna, rejecting its petitions that its rights to freedom of association and expression had been violated.

Otegi called the decisions "very bad news" and a "serious mistake."

AFP/Expatica

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