Thousands rally in Bilbao over ETA prisoner policy

Protesters rallied in Bilbao Saturday for return of ETA prisoners to jails in the Basque Country. Photo: Alvaro Barrientos / AP
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• Some 78,000 protested dispersion of ETA inmates to 40 jails across Spain
• Protesters demand ETA prisoners be able to serve sentences closer to home

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated Saturday in the northwestern Spanish city of Bilbao against the Spanish government policy of dispersing prisoners convicted of belonging to the Basque armed separatist movement ETA to jails across Spain, denying them the possibility of receiving visits from family, friends and supporters.

The Spanish government says its policy of dispersing ETA prisoners to serve sentences in more than 40 prisons across Spain was developed in order to minimize contact between members of the group. But, human rights groups and associations of families of victims of the Basque separatist conflict say the policy should be reconsidered on humanitarian grounds.

The ETA campaign over a period of four decades to create a separate Basque homeland in northwestern Spain resulted in the deaths of 829 people in a series of bombings and shootings by the separatist group. Despite a permanent cease-fire announced by the organisation’s leadership in 2011, the Spanish government refuses to recognize that ETA is serious about a settlement and says it won’t change its prisoner-dispersion policy until it is satisfied that all ETA arms caches are handed over to police authorities.

► Read More in Spanish at El Mundo and El País…

► Read More in English at AP via San Franisco Chronicle …

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