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Former Basque separatist leader arrested

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-10-13

Spanish police on Tuesday arrested the ex-leader of Batasuna, the banned political wing of terrorist organisation ETA. Arnaldo Otegi is suspected of trying to rebuild the party.

AFP - Police in Spain's northern Basque Country Tuesday arrested an ex-leader of Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed separatist group ETA, accused of seeking to rebuild the party, a judicial source said.

Former Batasuna spokesman Arnaldo Otegi was held in the city of San Sebastian along with a top union leader and three other Basque militants suspected of having tried to "reform the leadership of Batasuna on the instructions of ETA," the source said.

Batasuna was banned in 2003 because of its supposed links with ETA, which is held responsible for 828 deaths in a 41-year campaign for independence for the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Police made the arrests after a secret meeting at the Basque independence union LAB headquarters, Spanish media reported, with some saying a sixth person was also picked up.

Those arrested included the secretary general of the LAB union, Rafael Diez Usabiaga, a well-known figure in the Basque independence movement, the judicial source said.

The group of Basque separatists has been meeting secretly at the union headquarters since the beginning of the year, according to anti-terror sources cited by the Europa Press agency.

Otegi in the past few months has made several trips to southern France, another ETA base, where he is suspected of meeting with other leaders of the outlawed organisation, the sources told the agency.

Otegi was last jailed in June 2007 after the Supreme Court upheld a 15-month sentence for "glorifying terrorism" for praising veteran ETA leader Jose Miguel Benaran Ordenana at a memorial service in 2003.

A Spanish judge earlier this month him to again stand trial for "glorifying terrorism" five years ago.

Date created : 2009-10-13