Last Update 14:58
Sunday, 16 June 2019

Thousands rally for ETA prisoners in Basque city

AFP , Saturday 21 Apr 2018
ETA Protest
Demonstrators hold up their fists as they sing the "Eusko Gudariak" song or Song of the Basque Soldier, while marching in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, April 21, 2018, to demand that imprisoned members of the militant Basque group ETA be moved to prisons closer to their home
Views: 1575
Views: 1575

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Bilbao in northern Spain on Saturday, urging better conditions for jailed members or collaborators of ETA just weeks before the Basque separatist group is due to disband.

Shouting "Basque prisoners home" and waving the red, green and white Basque flag, they called for ETA prisoners to be transferred to jails closer to the northern region from where they are, hundreds of kilometres away, and freedom for those who are ill.

The protest comes a day after ETA apologised to some of its victims for the first time for the "pain" caused by its decades-long campaign of violence for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southern France.

It was the most comprehensive apology yet by the group that killed at least 829 people, which a mediator says is set to announce its dissolution in a historic declaration in early May, nearly seven years after declaring a permanent ceasefire.

While some victims denounced the apology as half-hearted, given it did not extend to those the group considered legitimate targets such as police or politicians, others insisted it was a major step towards reconciliation and healing wounds in the Basque society.

There have been calls for the Spanish government to take a step too by transferring ETA prisoners closer to the Basque Country, rather than keeping most of them in jails hundreds of kilometres away where their sometimes elderly relatives have trouble visiting them.

This is known as the "dispersal" of prisoners.

A large majority of ETA prisoners are also kept under the strictest "first degree" jail regime which only allows them out in the yard for three to four hours a day and bans them from getting leave.

Under Spanish law, this applies to inmates who are extremely dangerous or who cannot adapt to more lenient prison regimes, and lawyers defending ETA prisoners argue they do not fall under those categories and should be given better conditions.

On its Twitter feed, the pro-independence Basque party Sortu said: "It is urgently necessary to abolish the dispersal, to let sick prisoners go home and to end the first degree (regime)."

The Spanish government, however, has said it will not change its policy towards prisoners linked to a group that also carried out kidnappings and extortion.

Some 300 ETA members are imprisoned in Spain, France and Portugal and up to 100 are still on the run, according to the Social Forum, an association that is close to the families of prisoners.

Short link:


Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.

© 2010 Ahram Online.