Basque resistance updates

Thousands protest arrests of Basque nationalists
(AFP)
SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain — Thousands of people protested Saturday in the northern Spanish city of San Sebastian against the arrests of five Basque pro-independence militants.

The demonstrators demanded the release of the five men, who are accused of trying rebuild Batasuna, the banned political wing of the Basque separatist group ETA.

The protestors — who marched behind a banner calling “For liberty, for rights for every person” — included union activists, left-wing independence militants and nationalist parties.

Judge Baltasar Garzon ordered on Friday the detention of the former spokesman of Batasuna, Arnaldo Otegi, held along with four others.

Garzon accused them of “belonging to a terrorist organisation” and seeking to rebuild Batasuna on the orders of ETA.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said documents proved that the suspects “followed ETA directives.”

“This is not an invention by Judge Garzon,” he told Cadena Ser radio. “They develop ETA’s political-military strategy and this is why they are going to prison.”

Rubalcaba also criticised the centre-right Basque Nationalist Party, saying that by participating in the protest it was “defending the political-military strategy decided by ETA.”

Batasuna was banned in 2003 because of its supposed links with ETA, which is held responsible for 828 deaths in a 41-year campaign for independence for the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France.

In mid-2007 ETA called off a 15-month-old ceasefire following a deadlock in tentative peace talks with the Spain’s central government in Madrid.

Since then Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s Socialist government has taken a hard line against it, repeatedly ruling out new negotiations while a string of operations by Spanish and French police have weakened ETA’s leadership.

Basque separatists fingered in bomb attack

October 17
Madrid – Young Basque separatists are thought to be behind petrol bomb attacks against a bus and three banks in the northern Spanish towns of Bilbao and Ondarroa, the regional government said Saturday.

Masked attackers forced a bus driver from his vehicle in Bilbao at around 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) Friday before throwing several petrol bombs inside, a spokesperson for the Basque regional interior ministry told AFP.

The bus was not carrying any passengers, but was completely burnt, and the fire spread to several nearby cars.

An hour and a half later, masked attackers set light to a number of containers in Ondarroa town centre before attacking three nearby banks with petrol bombs, causing significant damage, the spokesman added.

The incidents came ahead of Saturday afternoon’s planned demonstrations in the Basque region, called to protest against the arrest of nine pro-independence militants including Arnaldo Ortegi, the leader of Batasuna, the banned political arm of ETA.

On Friday the judge Baltasar Garzon ordered the detention of Otegi and four other militants suspected of trying to rebuild the leadership of Batasuna.

Five other militant separatists arrested Tuesday in the Basque region and neighbouring Navarra have been released, three on bail of 10,000 euros.

Violent attacks in towns, “kale borroka” in the Basque language, are common in the Basque region and Navarra, and are blamed on young pro-independence radicals thought by the Spanish to support the armed separatist group ETA.

They mostly take the form of petrol bomb attacks and acts of sabotage against symbols of the Spanish state, political party buildings and banks. – AFP

Second bus fire-bombed in Spain

AFP/Madrid
A bus was attacked with petrol bombs in the northern Spanish town of Durango on Saturday night, officials said yesterday, the second such incident in two days in the Basque region.

Masked attackers – believed by the authorities to be Basque separatists – armed with metal bars and baseball bats forced around 20 passengers from the bus before setting it alight.

The incident came hours after a major demonstration in the town of San Sebastian protesting against the arrest of a number of militant separatists.

A spokesman for the Basque regional interior ministry said: “Around 3.45am (0145 GMT), around a dozen masked people armed with baseball bats and metal bars got on a bus carrying around 20 passengers. They made everyone get off and set the vehicle on fire.

“Petrol bombs thrown into the bus caused major damage, but no-one was injured.”

On Friday night, a bus was attacked with petrol bombs in Bilbao, and a similar incident caused serious damage to three banks in the town of Ondarroa.

Thousands of people took to the streets of San Sebastian on Saturday to protest against the arrest of 10 militant separatists, including Arnaldo Ortegi, the leader of Batasuna, the banned political arm of ETA.

Violent attacks in towns, “kale borroka” in the Basque language, are common in the Basque region and Navarra, and are blamed on young pro-independence radicals thought by the Spanish to support the armed separatist group ETA.

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