- Title: SPAIN: Spain court bails Basque leader week after ceasefire
- Date: 30th March 2006
- Summary: LOW ANGLE SHOT MEN LOOKING FROM COURT'S BALCONY
- Embargoed: 14th April 2006 13:00
- Location: Spain
- Country: Spain
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA9LH9BUG2SJ0R844M307TFE13U
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: Spain's High Court granted bail to the leader of an outlawed Basque separatist party on Wednesday (March 29, 2006) after unexpected support from the public prosecutor, one week after ETA declared a permanent ceasefire.
Arnaldo Otegi, a key figure in any possible peace process, had been expected to be sent to jail, pending trial, for belonging to a terrorist group. His party, Batasuna, has been outlawed due to its links to guerrilla group ETA.
The Socialist government originally said it would press for Otegi to be jailed for breaking his bail terms after he called an illegal strike in the Basque Country earlier this month.
But since then the situation has changed radically.
A week ago, ETA declared a permanent ceasefire after almost four decades of attacks in Spain that have killed about 850 people.
After hearing arguments from the public prosecutor and victims groups, Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska said Otegi and two other suspects currently in prison awaiting trial would not be kept in jail if they collectively paid 250,000 euros ($300,100) in bail. Emilio Murcia, one of the Association of ETA's victims lawyer declared his disagreement with the decision.
"Because of what Otegi has done and continues to do, we thought he was going to be immediately put in jail instead of him being granted bail. We think he is one of the most significant people of an illegal organisation that is directly linked to ETA, he is a member of the ETA/Batasuna organisation and we don't understand this resolution," Murcia told media.
Otegi, who arrived at court to shouts of "murderer" outside, has already had to post 400,000 euros in bail. He was charged with membership of an armed group in the position of leader, a crime that potentially carries a 14-year sentence.
The High Court's decision is likely to anger victims groups and the opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) which has insisted the government must not pay any political price for the ceasefire.
A poll in Sunday's El Mundo newspaper showed that 55 percent of Spaniards believe Batasuna should not be legalised, while half think ETA will return to violence.
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