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Last Updated: Friday, 2 April, 2004, 23:53 GMT 00:53 UK
Spain jails Basque party leader
Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi
Otegi is said to have called Eta members "Basque soldiers"
The leader of Spain's banned Basque separatist party, Batasuna, has been sentenced to 15 months in jail for extolling terrorism.

Prosecutors said Arnaldo Otegi had spoken at the funeral of a member of the armed Basque group Eta in 2001.

They said he praised what he called Basque soldiers fallen in the battle for self-determination.

As well as being sent to jail, Otegi was also banned from holding public office for eight years.


The court heard that in 2001, Otegi carried the coffin at the funeral of an Eta member who accidentally blew herself up with a bomb.

He reportedly described the Eta activist as a "colleague" and a "patriot", then asked for "applause for all Basque soldiers who have fallen in this long struggle for self-determination".

The BBC's Katya Adler in Madrid says Batasuna, which renamed itself the Patriotic Socialists after it was banned last year, has often denied being the political wing of Eta.

However, she adds that Batasuna does at times speak on Eta's behalf.

More than 800 people have been killed during Eta's 38-year campaign of violence to form an independent Basque homeland in the north of Spain.

Our correspondent says Batasuna has never explicitly condemned the violence.

Otegi has five days to appeal against the verdict.

In an interview with a Basque radio station, he described his sentence as exactly the kind of action by the Spanish state which "constitutes the best call to an armed struggle".

Spain maintains Basque party ban
17 Jan 04  |  Europe
Challenge to Basque party ban
10 Sep 03  |  Europe
Batasuna banned permanently
17 Mar 03  |  Europe
Eta: Key events
11 Mar 04  |  Europe

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