New Basque party says it will end separatist violence

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A new Basque pro-independence party launched by those close to ETA's outlawed political wing argued before Spain's Supreme Court Tuesday that its legalisation would end separatist violence in the country, Spanish media said.

Spain's government had asked the Supreme Court on March 3 to outlaw the party, called Sortu, arguing it is an "extension" of the banned political wing of the armed separatist group ETA.

"The statutes of Sortu and its legalisation will lead to the end of violence in the Basque Country and the state, because they will lead to the final strangulation of any social and political space for those who continue their activity," Sortu said in its deposition to the Supreme Court, the daily El Mundo reported on its website.

Sortu was launched by people close to Batasuna, ETA's outlawed political wing, on February 7 as a new party that rejects violence and is committed to fighting for independence through purely political means.

It wants to take part in municipal elections in the Basque region in May.

But Sortu argued Tuesday it now has "no similarity" with Batasuna because it has "altered the essential elements of what was Batasuna."

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

A Spanish police report last month said Sortu was "linked" to ETA.

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

But Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero rejected the declaration, saying he wanted nothing less than ETA's dissolution, and the authorities have vowed to hunt down ETA members.

ETA announced a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006 within the framework of negotiations with Madrid. But nine months later, it set off a bomb in the carpark of Madrid's airport, killing two men.

© 2011 AFP

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