Spanish judge charges suspected Basque group leaders

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Eight men with suspected links to banned party Batasuna detained by Spanish judge.

MADRID—A Spanish judge has charged and detained eight men suspected of leading reformed versions of Batasuna, the banned political wing of Basque separatist group ETA, according to a document seen by AFP Monday.

Judge Baltasar Garzon said the men, arrested Thursday and Friday in Spain's northern Basque Country and Navarra region, would be detained until appearing in court to face charges of "participation in a terrorist organisation."

In searches carried out during the overnight raids, police looked for documents linking Batasuna to two new entities, Askatasuna and 3DM (Democracy 3,000,000), which are fielding candidates for local elections in March.

Garzon, who is well-known in Spain for his pursuit of outlawed Basque separatists, says the two new parties are simply fronts for Batasuna.

The common objective of these groups is to "deceive state institutions and to succeed in being present (in elections) so they can implement the terrorist strategy of ETA when circumstances allow," he said in his ruling.

In national elections last March, two other Basque radical parties were prevented from running for the same reason.

The last major crackdown on Batasuna, which was outlawed by Spain's Supreme Court in 2003, was in October 2007 when 20 of its alleged leaders were arrested.

ETA, which is on the European Union's list of banned terrorist groups, has been blamed for the deaths of 825 people in a 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland straddling northern Spain and southwestern France.


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