Spain asks court to ban new Basque party candidates

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Spain's government asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to bar candidate lists from newly formed Basque pro-independence coalition Bildu from next month's municipal elections, a judicial source said.

Justice ministry lawyers based the request on police reports which concluded that Batasuna, the banned political wing of armed separatist group ETA, took part in the creation of Bildu, the source said.

Bildu was formed with two legal far-left Basque parties, Eusko Alkartasuna and Alternatiba, earlier this month after the Supreme Court banned a new Basque pro-independence party called Sortu, arguing it was an extension of Batasuna.

A national police report published in several newspapers last week, including top-selling El Pais, dubbed the Bildu coalition Batasuna's "plan B" after Sortu was banned from standing in the May 22 municipal elections.

Earlier on Tuesday Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said some members of Bildu "have a direct link to the illegal Batasuna".

"If you read ETA documents, Bildu appears as one of the group's strategic options," he added.

The justice ministry lawyers also asked the Supreme Court to prevent another 30 lists of mostly non-affiliated candidates on the grounds that they are also an extension of Batasuna.

The Supreme Court has until midnight on Friday to rule on the requests.

Batasuna was banned in 2003 because of its supposed links with ETA, which is held responsible for 829 deaths in a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for independence for the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France.

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 car park of Madrid-Barajas airport, killing two men.

© 2011 AFP

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