Spain Pushes ETA to Disband, Clear Unresolved Crimes


MADRID (AP) — Spain will offer nothing in return for the disarmament of the Basque separatist group ETA, a government spokesman said Friday, urging the militants to disband and help authorities clear up unsolved crimes attributed to the organization.

A woman poses by a placard reading “Peace workers” in Bayonne, southwestern France, Friday, April 7, 2017. The armed Basque separatist group ETA, inactive for more than five years, is to hand over its arms Saturday, a finishing touch to a 43-year violent campaign that claimed 829 lives, mostly in Spain. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

“What the government expects is for ETA to disarm and to disband,” said the conservative cabinet’s spokesman, Inigo Mendez de Vigo, during a weekly briefing with reporters.

In a letter Friday to the BBC, ETA declared itself a weapons-free organization after giving up its entire arsenal to civil society groups. It confirmed the mediators, who call themselves “peace artisans,” would complete the disarmament Saturday in southern France, as announced earlier.

Spain says ETA shouldn’t be applauded for the move because it had already been defeated by the hard work of police and judges which led to a cease-fire in 2011.

Spain and France had refused for the past 5½ years to negotiate with ETA over the future of imprisoned members and other long-time demands.

ETA killed 829 people and injured thousands over 43 years of armed campaign.

With the violence ended, ETA and its supporters say its members jailed in Spain and France should be allowed to complete their sentences in prisons in the Basque region. Basque nationalists consider the region across both sides of the western Pyrenees as a country.

Arnaldo Otegi, the pro-independence leader of Sortu, a political party linked to ETA, said the nationalists will be demanding new moves from Spain.

“What we are going to try to put on the table is the prisoners’ issue, the refugees, the demilitarization of this country,” Otegi said Friday according to Spanish news agency Europa Press, referring to ETA jailed militants and those in exile.

Mendez de Vigo said “ETA needs to know that it shouldn’t expect anything in return from the government.”

He added that ETA members should help victims’ relatives by cooperating on hundreds of unresolved cases.

A National Court judge in Madrid was expected to rule on whether to make a formal request to French authorities for sharing information and evidence gathered after Saturday’s disarmament that could shed light on some of the cases.

The “peace artisans” have said that Saturday’s weapon handover will not be public.

Although no Spanish or French government representative will take part, Bayonne Mayor Jean-Rene Etchegaray said he had received positive feedback from French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve in a meeting on March 20.

“I felt from the French government a real will to advance things,” Etchegaray said in an interview published Friday on Basque website Mediabask.


AP writer Angela Charlton contributed to this report from Paris.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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