Spain: ETA ceasefire throws internment into question

The Basque separatist ETA has announced a permanent ceasefire after nearly 40 years and some 800 killings. Now, as this report from IOL notes, legal proceedings against accused ETA collaborators may be reconsidered. Note that Arnaldo Otegi faces prison time for, among other things, “defending terrorism by praising dead ETA members.” As with the recent “anti-terrorism” legislation in the UK that criminalizes free speech, we see that “the West” betrays the very values it is supposedly defending in the War on Terrorism. And, of course, just as the war between ETA and the Spanish state is winding down, the war between al-Qaeda and the Spanish state may be just beginning…

Madrid, Spain – A Spanish judge on Thursday postponed a hearing at which he was to decide whether to jail a Basque separatist leader considered a key figure in any future negotiations to resolve the northern region’s conflict.

Arnaldo Otegi, leader of the outlawed Batasuna party which is linked by authorities to the armed group ETA, was due to appear at the National Court on Friday for questioning regarding violence during a Basque regional strike earlier this month.

Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska postponed the hearing until March 29 on the grounds that Otegi has a chest infection.

The decision came a day after ETA announced what it called a permanent cease-fire.

Otegi had missed a court appearance March 13, saying he was suffering from bronchitis that has worsened into pneumonia.

Otegi is free on $480 000 bail since being arrested in May on charges of being a leader of ETA.

Earlier this month, state prosecutors said they would urge the judge to imprison Otegi, claiming his role during the strike violated the terms of his bail.

But Attorney General Candido Conde-Pumpido said Wednesday he would ask judges involved in Basque cases to take the cease-fire announcement into account in any rulings.

Otegi also faces trial on separate charges of defending terrorism by praising dead ETA members, for which the prosecution is seeking a 15-month sentence. That trial was to start last week, but was also delayed because of Otegi’s illness.

Basque politicians have warned that Otegi’s jailing could hinder a tentative momentum toward a peace process in the region.

ETA has been blamed for more than 800 deaths since the late 1960s in its struggle to create an independent Basque homeland. Its last fatal attack was in May 2003, when a car bombing killed two policemen.

Five other separatism supporters were called in for questioning by Grande-Marlaska over the strike violence. He jailed two of them and released the others.

Otegi served three years of a six-year sentence handed down in 1989 for his role in an ETA kidnapping.

Spain’s Supreme Court also sentenced Otegi to a year in prison on November 4 for slandering King Juan Carlos in 2003 by saying he was in charge of torturers, but sentences under two years in Spain are suspended. – Sapa-AP

See our last posts on Spain and the Basque struggle.