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Spanish Authorities Move Against Basque Political Party - 2002-08-27

Spain's parliament and a high court judge have taken measures to outlaw the Basque nationalist party Batasuna saying it supports Western Europe's most active terrorist group, ETA.

Just a few hours after High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon issued an order suspending for three years the activities of the radical, pro-independence party Batasuna, parliament passed a measure that would ban the party altogether. Thanks to an anti-terrorist pact between the ruling Popular Party and the main opposition Socialists, a special session of parliament, normally in recess during August, was held Monday to vote on the banning of Batasuna.

The vote was 295-10, with 29 abstentions. The deputies of the pro-independence but moderate Basque Nationalist Party and of an allied separatist party voted against the measure, while the Communist-dominated United Left Coalition and the Catalan, Galician and Aragonese deputies abstained. They maintain that the parliamentary initiative violates the constitutional balance of powers and that the courts have enough authority to abolish Batasuna.

As if to underline the point, Judge Garzon earlier in the day suspended Batasuna's activities while he continues to investigate its links with ETA. The judge already claims to have enough evidence to prove that Batasuna is part of ETA's infrastructure providing funding for terrorist activities, recruiting potential members of ETA and organizing acts of street violence.

While the court ruling does not affect the activities of elected representatives of Batasuna in regional and city governments "within the strict limits of their mandate," it does order the closing down of Batasuna offices and forbids party members to hold press conferences and public meetings and rallies. It also embargoes the party's financial assets. More than 400 members of Batasuna have been arrested for collaborating with or belonging to ETA. The group has been blamed for the deaths of more than 800 people during a more than 40 year campaign to establish a Basque state in southern France and northern Spain.