Jailing of Basque leader condemned
Jailing of Basque leader condemned

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP has voiced his concern at the jailing of Basque political leader Arnaldo Otegi and said that is would only serve to setback efforts to establish a peace process.

The leader of the banned Batasuna political party, was summarily imprisoned on Thursday after giving evidence to a court in Madrid. He was jailed in the early hours of Thursday by a Spanish judge who accused him of being a leader of the armed group ETA.

He was released from Spanish prison on Friday after hundreds of donors raised O400,000 (#275,000) bail money.

Mr. Adams said the decision to jail the Basatuna leader would only serve to setback efforts to establish a peace process.

“The policy of criminalisation and exclusion pursued by successive Spanish governments has been a failure and should be ended.

“It is our view that a real opportunity exists to make progress and last week’s vote in the Spanish Parliament, and the outcome of the recent elections in the Basque country, are further evidence of that. This opportunity should be grasped. “

Together with other sectors of Basque society, Batasuna has been attempting to establish a peace process in the autonomous region in the north of Spain. Although it was banned from competing in recent elections, an allied political party scored impressive gains to ensure the Basque struggle for independence remained on the political agenda.

The Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero recently received the backing of parliament to commence conditional dialogue with ETA.

Irish priest Fr Alec Reid, who was central to the Hume-Adams dialogue in Ireland, is playing a role in the embryonic Basque peace initiative.

After being released from Soto del Real prison, Mr Otegi told reporters that Batasuna will not be deflected from pursuing peace and self-determination.

“What has happened to me is in no way going to change the political course of the Basque nationalist left,” Mr Otegi said.

“Whatever position is adopted by the Public Prosecutor and the National Criminal Court, and even if they put me behind bars, the commitment made by the Basque nationalist left to peace, democracy and a resolution of the conflict will not change.

“In this situation we all need to puch for a dialogue process to be started to achieve peace, democracy and self-determination once and for all,” Mr Otegi said.

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