Armed struggle may be off the Basque separatists’ agenda today, but sympathy in the Basque Country for imprisoned militants remains high. Support for them has prompted the government to suggest moving ETA prisoners closer to their families, and opening a reinsertion programme.
ETA, the Basque separatist’s armed wing, killed about 850 people in a 43-year long war against Madrid.
“To take part in the programme an ETA inmate must make a clear statement that he or she is leaving the armed gang,” said Spain’s Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz.
Some 700 ETA activists are currently behind bars worldwide, most of them in Spain, but the programme concerns all terrorist captives, including Islamic militants. Some have welcomed the move:
“I consider this a positive measure and for this reason we support it,” said the PNV’s Josu Erkoreka.
However that centre-right Basque nationalist sentiment is not echoed by the separatist movement’s closest political allies, the Bildu, the inheritors of ETA’s outlawed political wing Batasuna.
“This doesn’t mean any progress. I believe that Basque society demands the immediate repatriation of all Basque political prisoners,” said Martin Baritano.
Six months ago ETA announced armed struggle was over, and said it was ready to talk about its weapons if its prisoners were freed. The Spanish government demands ETA’s unconditional surrender.