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Tensions soar in Basque country over arrests

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Tensions soar in Basque country over arrests

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A declaration of war – that is how radical Basque separatists are describing the arrests of most of the alleged leaders of the illegal Batasuna party. They were seized at a clandestine meeting in the Basque town of Sequra. Batasuna was outlawed over its support for the armed group ETA.

Voicing the anger of Batasuna sympathisers, Pernando Barrena said the arrests were politically motivated. “This police operation clearly shows the Spanish government has made a declaration of war against the Basque independence movement,” he said.

The ruling Socialists and opposition conservatives have welcomed the detentions. Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy said he believed the arrests should have been made at an earlier stage: “The Prime Minister should make a firm statement against restarting negotiations with a terrorist organisation,” he said.

The police raid sparked protests across the Basque region and more demonstrations are expected. The Spanish government has been putting Batasuna under increasing pressure in recent months since ETA resumed its campaign of violence.