Some 150 Basque separatist prisoners are on hunger strike, demanding a fellow detainee suffering from cancer be released.
The hunger strikers say Iosu Uribetxeberria has terminal cancer and should be allowed to die at home. Madrid says it is waiting for full medical test results before taking a decision.
Around a quarter of all ETA prisoners in Spain -and separatist political leader Arnaldo Otegi – have joined the action so far.
But the ruling Popular Party says it will be sticking strictly to the law and will not give in to what party general secretary Carlos Floriano described as: “Theatrical hunger strikes or any other blackmail coming from anybody.”
As ever on this issue the government and opposition are united. Socialist Party leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba simply said he expected the government would apply the law. “It’s the law that must resolve this situation in counter-terrorism policy,” he added.
The protest raises once again the issue of ETA prisoners. They have long complained about their conditions and the fact they are usually held in jails far from the Basque country.
ETA announced a ceasefire in its armed struggle for an independent Basque country in October 2011.
However, it says it will only disarm when its prisoners are given an amnesty. Madrid says the disarmament must be unconditional.