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Monday, 26 August, 2002, 17:52 GMT 18:52 UK
Basque party dealt double blow
Batasuna rally
Batasuna supporters are rallying to their party
The Spanish judiciary and parliament have moved to outlaw the radical party Batasuna, widely seen as the political wing of the armed separatist group, ETA

Anti-terrorist judge Baltasar Garzon suspended the party for three years on Monday, saying it was part of ETA which was "guilty of crimes against humanity".

Court ruling
Public rallies and demonstrations banned
Offices to be closed, with water, electricity and telephones cut off
Party representatives barred from next year's local elections
All assets seized and bank accounts frozen

Later, a special session of parliament in Madrid voted overwhelmingly to seek an indefinite ban on Batasuna.

Critics of the moves fear many of Batasuna's supporters could be driven into the arms of ETA.

Politicians have been angered by the party's refusal to condemn a recent spate of ETA bombings.

Batasuna leaders, who deny having links with ETA, have urged supporters to occupy the party's offices to stop them being closed down.

However police went into the party's offices in the northern city of Pamplona late on Monday and evicted the occupants, reports said.

Under Judge Garzon's suspension, the party will not be allowed to hold public demonstrations or political rallies and representatives will not be allowed to stand in next year's local elections.

Only the party's parliamentarians and local council members will be allowed to continue their work.

The ban gives Mr Garzon three years in which to investigate links between Batasuna and ETA.

Baltasar Garzon
Judge Garzon is investigating terror links
Party lawyer Jone Goirizelaia said it would appeal against the ruling.

A Batasuna statement appealed to citizens to defy the order.

"In order that our offices might not fall into the hands of the fascists, we make an appeal to all democrats, progressives and antifascists to go and gather at the various Batasuna premises," it said.

Parliamentary vote

Police in Madrid were on a high state of alert as parliament met.

A law passed two months ago allows parliament to ask the supreme court to ban parties that support terrorism, either explicitly or implicitly.

Members voted 295 to 10 to start proceedings against Batasuna.

Luis de Grandes, a member of the ruling Popular Party, said: "Batasuna is a mask of ETA... which justifies ETA's crimes."

The action was supported by the opposition Socialists.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar
Jose Maria Aznar described Batasuna leaders as "filth"
But moderate Basque parties and parties from other small regions either abstained or voted against the motion.

Basque Nationalist Party speaker Inaki Anasagasti said he feared his own party - which opposes violence - would be banned solely because it supports self-determination.

Bombing campaign

In recent months the guerrilla group has carried out a string of bomb attacks aimed at disrupting Spain's important tourism industry.

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was furious when Batasuna refused to condemn a car bombing in the resort of Santa Pola, which killed a six-year-old girl and a 57-year old man.

He told activists from his ruling Popular Party on Saturday that Batasuna would be pursued relentlessly.

"As of Monday the countdown begins for the political arm of terror," he said.

ETA has been blamed for the deaths of about 800 people during its 30-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and parts of south western France.

Batasuna says that the continuing violence is the result of the policies of Mr Aznar's conservative government.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jonathan Charles
"Batasuta's immediate suspension will last three years"
Eusebio Lasa, Batasuna
"Batasuna is a legal democratic party"
Dr Rogelio Alonso, Ulster University
"The banning of Batasuta will not be beneficial at all for ETA"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Batasuna ban
Is it the right move or could it backfire?

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26 Aug 02 | Europe
26 Aug 02 | Europe
23 Aug 02 | Europe
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05 Aug 02 | Europe
24 Jul 02 | Europe
26 Aug 02 | Europe
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