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ETA prisoners call for end to separatist violence in Spain

The Collective of Basque Political Prisoners (EPPK) on Friday released a statement [text, in Spanish] supporting the 2010 Guernica agreement [PDF, in Spanish] and called for the Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] to commit to a permanent truce. The EPPK is comprised of 700 Spanish and French prisoners, of varying levels of leadership in the ETA. The group called for focus on achieving freedom through democratic means and said the ceasefire would be "the first step on the path to amnesty." Although supporting the new agreement, the EPPK criticized the government's treatment of them, stating that the "prison system was built to destroy our political and human identity." The Guernica agreement is the greatest recognition of a separate Basque state that the Spanish government has ever agreed to, as well as a recognition of repatriation and other rights for ETA prisoners. Despite the EPPK's statement, the Spanish government responded by calling for the ETA to disband [Reuters report], although recognizing the prisoners' efforts as a significant step.

The Spanish government continues to actively pursue charges against ETA. Last week, the Spanish National Court sentenced a former Basque separatist to 10 years in prison [JURIST report] for terrorism and trying to resurrect a banned political wing of ETA. In March 2010, the court sentenced a former Basque separatist party leader to two years in prison for promoting terrorism [JURIST report]. Earlier that week, the court accused [JURIST report] the Venezuelan government of aiding ETA in a plot to assassinate members of the Colombian government in Spain. In February 2010, the Interior Ministry of Spain 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. Spanish Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska ruled [JURIST report] a month earlier that ETA had tried three times to assassinate former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar in 2001 but had failed. In June 2009, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld [JURIST report] Spain's ban of Basque political groups Batasuna and Herri Batasuna for their alleged ties to ETA.

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