Tuesday, October 13, 2009

8 Basque Activists Arrested

Spanish police operating in the Basque Country arrested Arnaldo Otegi, Batasuna's moral leader, the banned political party, and eight other activists, accusing them for the second time of seeking to rebuild the party, judicial and police sources said.

Batasuna's spokesman Arnaldo Otegi was held in the city of Donostia along with top union leader Rafa Déz and three other Basque activists suspected.

The interior ministry said later that four other "leaders of the independentist left" had been picked up, two in the Basque town of Hernani and two in Iruñea. Batasuna was banned in 2003 because of its supposed links with ETA, an accusation that the Spanish state is yet to prove.

Police made the first arrests after a meeting at the Basque independence union LAB headquarters. The operation was ordered by Madrid's top inquisidor judge Baltasar Garzon. Those arrested included the secretary general of the LAB union, Rafael Diez Usabiaga, a well-known figure in the Basque independence movement, the judicial source said.

The group of Basque pro-independence activists has been meeting at the union headquarters since the beginning of the year in an effort to put forward a political proposal that includes a new initiative to restart the peace process that was derailed by Zapatero's government back in 2006.

Otegi in the past few months has made several trips to southern Iparralde, where he met with other leaders of his political party that happens to be legal in the French state. Otegi was last jailed in June 2007 after the Supreme Court upheld a 15-month sentence for "glorifying terrorism" after praising veteran ETA leader Jose Miguel Beñaran "Argala" at a memorial service in 2003. "Argala" was murdered by the GAL at the height of the "dirty war" against the Basque pro-independence movement.

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