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SPAIN - ETA

Basque separatist leader released from jail

2 min

Arnaldo Otegi, the former leader of Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, was released from jail Saturday after serving 15 months for "glorifying terrorism".

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Arnaldo Otegi, the former leader of Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, was released from jail Saturday after spending just over a year behind bars.

"Otegi got out at 7:25 am and there are lots of people outside", a prison officer confirmed to AFP by telephone.

Around 100 people were waiting to greet him, an AFP photographer said outside the prison in the suburbs of the Basque coastal city of San Sebastian in northern Spain.

Otegi spent several minutes embracing family, friends and former leaders of Batasuna.

Otegi, 50, was jailed in June last year after the Supreme Court upheld a 15-month sentence for "glorifying terrorism" for praising veteran ETA leader Jose Miguel Benaran Ordenana, also known as "Argala," at a memorial service in 2003.

His detention came just days after ETA formally called off a ceasefire with Spain's socialist government announced in March 2006, citing a lack of progress in its subsequent peace talks with Madrid.

While serving his sentence Ortegi reportedly kept a low profile, spending his time learning English and only having rare visits from political figures.

Batasuna has been banned as a party since 2003 for refusing to condemn violence and sever its links to ETA, which has killed 823 people in its 40-year campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent Basque homeland.

ETA is considered a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States.

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