People on either side of the French-Spanish border have been celebrating Aberri Eguna, the Basque Homeland Day. Juan Jose Ibarretxe, the head of the regional government in Spain’s Basque Country, said he was optimistic about the peace process, following last month’s permanent ceasefire announcement by the armed separatist group ETA.
At a gathering in Bilbao, he said: “Basque society no longer permits and will never again permit violence among its people; violence is over.” Ibarretxe claimed four out of five people in the Basque Autonomous Region wanted the right to decide its future status. He is pushing for a referendum that the Madrid government has previously rejected as illegal.
Arnaldo Otegi, the leader of ETA’s banned political allies Batasuna, could be a key figure in the Basque peace process. But he faces up to 15 months in jail over charges of praising terrorism. He appeared in court last Monday just three days after being released on bail in a separate case.