[JURIST] The Spanish National Court [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday sentenced [order, PDF; in Spanish] a former Basque separatist party leader to two years in prison for promoting terrorism. The court found [El Pais report, in spanish] that comments made during a 2005 speech by Arnaldo Otegi, a former leader of Batasuna [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], the political wing of ETA [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; JURIST news archive], praised the terrorist acts committed by other ETA members. Otegi compared his imprisoned associates to South African leader Nelson Mandela [ANC backgrounder]. The court criticized the comparison because, unlike the ETA, which is blamed for more than 800 deaths, Mandela was nonviolent. The court also disqualified Otegi from holding public office for 16 years. Otegi faces additional charges that could result in up to 30 years in prison.
The Spanish government continues to actively pursue charges against ETA. On Monday, the court accused [JURIST report] the Venezuelan government of aiding ETA in a plot to assassinate members of the Colombian government in Spain. Last month, the Interior Ministry of Spain [official website, in Spanish] said [JURIST report] that it took into custody the suspected ETA leader, along with two other people who are believed to be senior members of the group. In January, Spanish Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska ruled [JURIST report] that ETA had tried three times to assassinate former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar in 2001 but had failed. Last June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] upheld [JURIST report] Spain's ban of Basque political groups Batasuna and Herri Batasuna for their alleged ties to ETA.