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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 22:37 GMT
Basque leader acquitted in court
Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi is arrested in northern Spain
Arnaldo Otegi was arrested at his home in northern Spain
Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi has been cleared of praising terrorism, only hours after being arrested and taken to court by hooded police.

The leader of Batasuna, the political wing of militant group Eta, was due to have gone on trial on Wednesday.

He failed to turn up at court in Madrid, blaming snowstorms in northern Spain. A judge promptly ordered that he be arrested and flown to the capital.

But Otegi walked free when prosecutors said they were dropping charges.

He had been accused of glorifying terrorism by allegedly praising a suspected Eta member who blew herself up while preparing explosives in 2001.

Prosecutors had been seeking a 15-month jail sentence.

Otegi, 48, a convicted Eta kidnapper, denied the charges, saying he had only spoken about Basque self-determination and the need for a solution to the Basque conflict.

In April last year he was sentenced to 15 months on the same charge, relating to a different incident, but was freed pending an appeal and has not served the sentence.

Batasuna is banned because of its links to Eta but is seeking a way to participate in regional elections in May.

The government broke off peace talks with Eta after it killed two people in a bomb blast at Madrid airport at the end of last year.

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