Thousands march in Spain in support of ETA suspects

Thousands of people marched in Spain’s Basque region on Saturday in support of nine people arrested Tuesday on suspicion of links to the militant separatist group ETA.

In San Sebastian, Bilbao and Vitoria, the three main cities in the Basque Country, demonstrators shouted slogans and carried placards denouncing Spain’s ruling Socialist Party.

The nine men meanwhile appeared in court on Saturday and were ordered to be held in custody on suspicion of “terrorist collaboration”.

In the raids overnight Monday, more than 300 police officers detained the nine leaders of Ekin, an ETA support group declared illegal by Spain’s National Court in 2007. Three of those detained were women.

The Spanish government has rejected ETA’s ceasefire declaration, made in a video message on September 5, saying it failed to promise a permanent end to violence.

The interior ministry has vowed to keep its hardline policy against the group and Ekin, formed in 1999, is considered by Spanish authorities as the “heart and entrails of ETA.”

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