Outcry in Spain over tributes to freed ETA prisoners

Madrid (AFP) –


Tributes paid to two members of the Basque separatist group ETA when they left jail sparked outrage Tuesday in Spain, prompting the government to called for an investigation.

"Terrorists can't be honoured in a society that has made every effort for peace. It is morally and politically reprehensible," Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo told public radio RNE when asked about the events.

Dozens of ETA sympathisers waving Basque flags and setting off flares welcomed two ETA members to their hometowns in the northern Basque region at the weekend after they were released from jail following lengthy sentences for their roles in kidnappings and attacks.

The government said Sunday it would ask public prosecutors to investigate the "unacceptable" events which it called an "insult to victims of terrorism and society in general".

The prosecutors' office said it would check to see if those who organised and took part in the events could be held "criminally liable" for offences such as "glorification of terrorism".

Welcome receptions for convicted ETA members who leave jail are common in the Basque region and neighbouring Navarra, which is partly Basque-speaking.

They have long been condemned by conservative and Socialist politicians who were targeted by ETA, but this time even the regional Basque government headed by moderate nationalist Inigo Urkullu weighed in.

"Those who organise these sort of events, if they have a minimum of human sensibility, should also think of the pain of the victims," he said.

ETA waged a nearly four-decade campaign of bombings, kidnappings and shootings for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France that is balmed for 853 deaths. It announced its full dissolution last year.