Basque political prisoners have agreed to endorse a political strategy as part of a number of key statements by the prisoners aimed at finding a solution to the ongoing independence struggle in the Basque Country.
In a statement this week, the Basque Political Prisoners Collective set out a number of issues in which they can play an active role. They stated that they endorse the pursuance of political objectives through exclusively political means, and significantly, also recognised the suffering of all those who had been affected by the conflict.
The Basque armed group, ETA, declared an end to their armed campaign two years ago, and pressure has grown on the Spanish state to play an active and positive role in a potential Basque peace process. In a recent ruling, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the Madrid government to free dozens of Basque political prisoners it had attempted to keep in jail after they qualified for release.
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly welcomed the advance and urged talks between Madrid and the Basque representatives.
“In any conflict political prisoners have a key role to play in finding a resolution to that particular conflict,” said Mr Kelly. “Dealing with the issue of prisoners is an essential part of developing the peace process.”
He said conditions existed for new steps aimed at resolving the conflict in the Basque Country.
“The Spanish government should now recognise and reciprocate the valuable contribution that this statement has made to the entire process.
“There should now be movement on the issue of Basque political prisoners by the Spanish Government. They should release all ill prisoners immediately while transferring all political prisoners to gaols in the Basque Country pending their eventual release.”
Meanwhile, more than two dozen Palestinian prisoners have been freed as part of a deal to restart Middle East peace talks.
The prisoners received heroes’ welcomes on their return to the West Bank and Gaza with officials and jubilant relatives lining up to greet them.
At his headquarters in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas waited to meet the men in the middle of the night. Speaking before thousands, he pledged to continue pressing for the release of long-serving and ill prisoners.
“We will not sign a final peace deal with Israel before all the prisoners are released,” he said.
Under a formula drawn up by US secretary of state John Kerry, Israelis agreed last summer to free a total of 104 long-serving Palestinian prisoners in order to restart peace talks.
In exchange the Palestinians Authority dropped its demand for Zionists to halt building of homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas captured from Palestine in 1967.
All 26 of the men have spent between 19 and 28 years in prison. They included 18 men from the West Bank, three Gazans, and five men from east Jerusalem.