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Officials Ask Spain's Supreme Court to Ban Basque Party - 2002-09-03

Two petitions have been presented to Spain's Supreme Court calling for the banning of the Basque separatist party, Batasuna, for allegedly supporting terrorism.

Spain's Supreme Court received petitions from the Spanish parliament and the general prosecutors office calling for the Supreme Court to abolish Batasuna, widely viewed as the political wing of ETA, the Basque terrorist organization.

These initiatives follow an order issued early last week by High Court Judge Baltasar Garzón that suspended the party's activities for three years, while he continues to investigate its links with ETA.

The parliamentary petition, which was overwhelmingly approved at the beginning of last week, cites more than 1,000 items of evidence as proof that ETA and Batasuna are part of the same terrorist enterprise.

It points out that more than 190 people sentenced for terrorist activity have figured in Batasuna's electoral lists. That 32 townships governed by the party have regularly exalted ETA members with slogans, posters and rallies, and that party headquarters have been used to finance ETA, recruit new ETA members, store arms and plan acts of street violence.

The other petition presented by the government's chief prosecutor, Jesus Cardenal, cited 15 violations by Batasuna members of a law on political parties that parliament passed at the end of June.

These include threats against Basque politicians who do not favor Basque separatism and the failure of the party's leadership to condemn a car bomb attack at the beginning of August that killed a six-year-old girl and a 57-year-old man. Mr. Cardenal said the petition aimed to liberate a part of Spain from the "Nazi activities of Batasuna."

Meanwhile, following last week's court order by Judge Garzon to suspend Batasuna, the Basque regional government shut down Batasuna party offices. The Basque regional government is run by the moderate, pro-independence Basque National Party.

While the Basque National Party is against the banning of Batasuna, it has announced its intention of carrying out the judge's order.

ETA, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, is blamed for more than 800 killings in its more than 30-year campaign to establish an independent state in southern France and northern Spain.