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Spain Takes Step to Ban Basque Separatist Political Party - 2002-08-06

The government of Spain has begun taking steps to ban Batasuna, the political wing of the violent Basque separatist group ETA. A large demonstration at the site of Sunday's bombing attack called for the party to be made illegal.

Using a new law, the Spanish government has filed documents with the General Prosecutor's office because Batasuna, a radical Basque separatist party considered the political wing of ETA, failed to condemn a car bomb attack on Sunday.

The action was taken a day after Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar expressed the hope that Batasuna would be made illegal as soon as possible and called their leaders human trash.

The attack took place in the beach resort town of Santa Pola in the eastern province of Alicante. It killed a six-year old girl and a 57-old-man, injured more than 40 people and left 250 homeless.

The law governing political parties was passed in June with Batasuna in mind. It was voted on by all the major political parties with the exception of the pro-Basque independence parties and the Communist dominated United Left Coalition. The law enables the government to ban parties which support, justify or excuse terrorism. Members of Batasuna refuse to condemn terrorist attacks and limit themselves to "lamenting" them.

The government's position has wide support throughout Spain. During Tuesday evening's demonstration in Santa Pola, some 20,000 people chanted slogans calling for the banning of Batasuna and for unity among all democratic parties.

Heading the demonstration were the Ministers of Defense and Labor of the ruling Popular Party and the leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, Jose Luís Rodríguez Zapatero. Mr. Zapatero agreed that after the latest attack it was time to implement the law governing political parties and illegalize Batasuna.

This radical Basque pro-independence party denies being linked to ETA but a number of its members have been arrested as ETA suspects and police say its youth groups plan and prepare acts of street violence in party headquarters.

ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths in a 30- year campaign to establish an independent Basque state in southern France and northern Spain.