Wednesday, July 21, 1999 Published at 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Basque leaders freed
Arnaldo Ortegi, one of the main Basque nationalist leaders still free
The entire leadership of the Basque separatist party, Herri Batasuna, has been released from jail after Spain's constitutional court overturned their convictions.
One of the group was released last year due to ill health.
Local media said that more than 1,000 supporters had gathered at the gates at one of the prisons in northern Spain to celebrate the releases. 7
After the verdict, Herri Batasuna official Joseba Permach said the state had no option but to free the prisoners following what he called " an aberration of justice".
The Herri Batasuna party used a video showing members of armed ETA guerrillas as part of their electoral campaign in 1996.
The tape was seized before it could be broadcast.
The decision to jail the whole party leadership was met with outrage in the northern Basque region, but general joy in the rest of Spain.
The Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar called it an important step in the fight against terrorism.
Shortly afterwards, the courts closed a newspaper, Egin, which had close links with the Basque separatist movement.
The party changed its name to Euskal Herittarrok for last year's regional elections, in which it increased its share of the vote.
The party's new leadership is also seen as having a more moderate stance than their predecessors and says it has modelled much of its strategy on that of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland.
Last September, ETA declared a ceasefire which so far has held.
Perhaps more significantly the authorities in both Spain and France arrested a number of high-profile ETA members, seriously weakening the armed organisation.
As a result both ETA and its political wing have been pressured into embracing peaceful means to try to achieve independence for the Basque region.
Correspondents say the announcement of the releases could also boost the fragile peace as ETA has made freedom for the former HB leaders a key demand in talks with the government.