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Basque party leader jailed

Published on 02/04/2004

2 April 2004

MADRID – The leader of Spain’s banned Basque separatist party, Batasuna, was jailed for 15 months Friday for extolling terrorism.

Prosecutors said Arnaldo Otegi had spoken at the funeral of a member of the armed Basque group ETA in 2001.

They said he praised what he called Basque soldiers fallen in the battle for self-determination.

As well as being sent to jail, Otegi was also banned from holding public office for eight years.

The court heard that in 2001, Otegi carried the coffin at the funeral of an ETA terrorist  who accidentally blew herself up with a bomb.

He was said to have described the ETA activist as a “colleague” and a “patriot”, then asked for “applause for all Basque soldiers who have fallen in this long struggle for self-determination”.

Batasuna was banned last year and renamed itself the Patriotic Socialist party.

It  has often denied being the political wing of ETA.

More than 800 people have been killed during ETA’s 38-year campaign of violence to form an independent Basque homeland in the north of Spain.

Otegi has five days to appeal against the verdict.

In an interview with a Basque radio station, he described his sentence as exactly the kind of action by the Spanish state which “constitutes the best call to an armed struggle”.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

                                    Subject: Spanish news