The latest blow to ETA, with the arrest of its suspected military leader, adds to a recent wave of criticism from some of the armed group’s own former members being held in prison in Spain’s Basque country.
On Saturday, a letter from the prisoners published in the Spanish press called on ETA to pay compensation to its victims. Addressed to the public at large, it was signed openly by eight ex-ETA members, including Joseba Urrusolo Sistiaga.
Considered ETA’s number three at the time of his arrest in France in 1997, Urrusolo Sistiaga was chief of the dreaded ‘Madrid Commando’ in the 1980’s. He was jailed for 83 years.
Another former head of ETA, Carmen Guisasola, also signed the letter. She criticised the violent methods used by the organisation’s leadership, demanding a politically peaceful approach.
Rafael Caride Simon, perpetrator of a massive attack that left 21 dead at a Barcelona supermarket in 1987, also put his name to the missive. He has called on 570 or so ETA prisoners to disobey the top command’s orders.
Currently ETA detainees do not benefit from certain types of flexibility in serving out their sentences, such as monitored day release. They are also not able to actively take part in talks on a resolution of the conflict, unlike Irish prisoners during the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Large cracks have emerged inside the separatist Basque movement over continuing the armed struggle after a temporary ceasefire between 2006 and 2007.
Branded a terrorist group by the EU, ETA has killed 829 people during the last 40 years in its efforts to secure an independent Basque state between northern Spain and southwestern France.