Spain: Basque separatist political leader arrested

Arnaldo Otegi, the leader of banned Basque separatist party Batasuna, has been arrested in northern Spain, charged with glorifying terrorism; he is to serve a 15-month sentence. Batasuna is closely linked with Basque separatists ETA, who ended a 15-month cease-fire on June 6. [The Supreme Court had rejected Otegi’s appeal of a conviction and 15-month sentence handed down last year.] [EITB24, June 8]

It emerged on June 8 that Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has held high-level talks with ETA during his premiership. Discussions purportedly broke down, however, in the wake of unacceptable political demands made by ETA; a car bomb at Madrid Airport last December, which killed two people, brought an end to the talks. [BBC, June 8]

From Security Briefs, June 8

See our last posts on Spain and the Basque struggle.

  1. Spanish-French raids net ETA militants
    From AP, June 8:

    Three suspected members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA were arrested yesterday in southwest France in the first raid since ETA called off a 15-month-old ceasefire, officials said.

    The two men and one woman were arrested in the town of Bagneres de Bigorre, the interior ministry said.

    The joint French-Spanish raid took place two days after ETA called off the truce, blaming the Spanish government for ruining a once-promising peace process. The group said it would be “active on all fronts”, a threat interpreted as meaning it would resume its attacks…

    The two men arrested were named as Aitor Lorente Bilbao, 40, and Igor Igartua Echevarria, 37.

    Lorente Bilbao went into hiding after he was released from jail in Spain in 2006 on serving seven years for arms possession. Igartua fled Spain in 2000 as police moved to break up ETA’s so-called Vizcaya cell, the statement said.