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Spain Seeks Dissolution of Basque Party

September 04, 2002|From Reuters

MADRID — Spain asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday to outlaw the radical Basque party Batasuna over its alleged support of the armed group ETA, setting the stage for possible clashes at banned protests this weekend.

The legal move was made after the Spanish parliament voted Aug. 26 to seek to dissolve the party because it refuses to condemn violence by the ETA, Western Europe's most active guerrilla group. The ETA has killed 836 people in 34 years.

Justice Minister Jose Maria Michavila displayed 26 boxes he said were packed with 1,000 pieces of evidence linking Batasuna and the ETA, and singling out 194 of the party's political leaders who he said also belong to the rebel group.

"Batasuna is the prolongation of terrorism ... the prolongation of ETA," Michavila said.

Batasuna shares the ETA's vision of Basque independence but denies it is the group's political wing.

The Supreme Court is Spain's second-highest, leaving Batasuna the opportunity to appeal to the Constitutional Court should the Supreme Court rule in favor of the government.

Batasuna supporters said Tuesday that they would go ahead with street demonstrations set for Saturday in Bilbao, the largest Basque city, and for Sunday in San Sebastian, a bastion of Basque nationalism, even though the Basque region's Interior Department banned the marches.

The Basque government said it decided not to allow the protests after a demonstration last Sunday in San Sebastian turned violent and featured shouts in support of the ETA, short for Basque Homeland and Freedom.

After the march ended peacefully, Basque riot police clashed with masked Batasuna supporters in the streets of central San Sebastian. A local man who was not part of the demonstration lost an eye when police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators who were hurling bottles and smashing windows.

Spanish police have been shutting down the offices and property of Batasuna on orders from High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon.

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