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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 February 2007, 21:47 GMT
Spanish protest over Eta prisoner
Madrid marchers holding placards
Protesters accuse the courts of going soft on Eta members
Thousands of people have protested in the Spanish capital Madrid against a Supreme Court ruling reducing the prison sentence of a Basque separatist.

Inaki De Juana Chaos's sentence was cut to three years from 12 years and seven months for having made terror threats, and he could be released soon.

The member of the armed Basque separatist group Eta has been on hunger strike for 110 days.

He has already spent 20 years in prison, convicted of killing 25 people.

The protest was organised by a group representing victims of Eta attacks and the opposition Popular Party.

Gaunt and emaciated

The demonstrators waved Spanish flags and carried placards calling for justice.

They say Spanish courts are going soft on Eta militants and accuse Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of trying to appease Basque nationalists.

The Supreme Court reduced his sentence on 12 February, ruling that De Juana had exalted terrorism but not made any death threats.

Poster of Inaki De Juana Chaos
Images of a frail De Juana Chaos are on display in Basque towns
Gaunt and emaciated images of De Juana emerged from his high-security prison earlier this month after a newspaper interview in which he called on the government to reopen talks with Eta.

Doctors have suggested that he could only have weeks to live after losing more than 18kg (40lb) in weight, reports say.

He insists his sentence is unjust and illegal.

For some Basque organisations De Juana is a political prisoner who should be released immediately, says the BBC's Danny Wood in Madrid.

But, says our correspondent, the vast majority of Spaniards are very upset that a man responsible for 25 murders could soon walk free.

Eta has been waging an armed campaign for Basque independence for more than 30 years and is blamed for more than 800 deaths.

The group declared a "permanent ceasefire" in March 2006, but then killed two people in a bomb attack in Madrid at the end of the year.

The crowds calling for 'dignity and justice'

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