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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 17:40 GMT
Batasuna banned permanently
Police clash with Batsuna demonstrators
Batasuna denies reports that it is ETA's political wing
Spain's Supreme Court has approved a government request to ban the Basque separatist Batasuna party permanently.

A three-year suspension was imposed on the radical party in August 2002 on the grounds that Batasuna was part of the "terrorist network" of the armed separatist group ETA.

Spain's right-wing government began seeking a permanent ban on the party in September, with the overwhelming support of the parliament in Madrid.

It is the first time since the 1975 death of dictator General Francisco Franco that a political party has been banned.

Chief Justice Francisco Hernando released the unanimous ruling by a 16-judge panel and said their arguments would be published in a few days.

Spanish PM Jose Maria Aznar welcomed the decision.

BANNING BATASUNA
June 2002 - law passed allowing parties' suspension
Aug 2002 - Batasuna suspended for three years by magistrate Baltasar Garzon
Sept 2002 - government begins seeking permanent ban
Oct 2002 Batasuna loses appeal against three-year suspension
March 2003 - Spanish Supreme Court agrees permanent ban
"Terrorists will not be able to set the rules of the game either in Spain or outside it,"said Mr Aznar. "I am very happy and very satisfied."

Batasuna lost an appeal to have the temporary ban overturned in October.

It can challenge the Supreme Court decision in the country's constitutional court.

Local elections in the Basque country, in which Batasuna regularly obtains between 10% and 20% of the vote, are due in May.

It has seven seats in the parliament of the autonomous region.

The Supreme Court also banned Batasuna's two predecessors, Euskal Herritarrok and Herri Batasuna in its decision handed down on Monday.

Batasuna denies persistent reports that it is ETA's political wing.

ETA has been fighting for three decades for an independent Basque homeland comprising parts of northern Spain and south-western France.


SEE ALSO:
Spain's separatists silenced
31 Aug 02 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Basque party dealt double blow
26 Aug 02 |  Europe
Europe wary of banning parties
28 Aug 02 |  Europe
ETA: Key events
22 Nov 00 |  Europe


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