The Basque Political Prisoners group (EPPK) announced that 742 of its members currently serving time in jails across Spain and France would refuse food in protest at what they call “cruel prison policy”.
The group has called for an end to solitary confinement and demanded that Eta prisoners be held together in jails in the Basque region, where they can be closer to their families.
“We do not have to accept that any one of us be isolated, kept at a distance or dispersed,” the prisoners’ organisation said in a statement published in Gara, a pro-independence Basque-language newspaper.
Spain’s policy is to keep Eta prisoners in isolation from each other in jails across the country in an effort to prevent further plotting behind bars.
But family members and supporters complain that they are forced to travel miles from the Basque region to make visits and that Eta prisoners should for “humanitarian reasons” be jailed closer to home.
Spain’s interior minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, said on Monday the government would not change its policy.
“You can’t treat a prisoner in the same way who has asked for pardon from his victims … to one who hasn’t repented at all,” he said.
Those prisoners who renounced the need for violence were often rewarded with a move to a prison closer to home, he explained.
Earlier this month the EPPK announced that it had expelled five of its members for criticising the continuation of Eta’s armed struggle and pushing dialogue as the only way forward.
Eta has killed more than 820 people in a 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland encompassing parts of northern Spain and southwestern France