TERRORIST PRISONERS

Central and Basque governments agree to start working on ETA inmate policies

Minister and Basque law enforcement official to seek ways to integrate ex-prisoners in society

Reintegration to be decided on a case-by-case basis

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández and a top regional Basque law enforcement official agreed on Sunday to begin seeking ways to make it easier for ETA inmates to reintegrate into society.

Fernández and Basque interior chief Rodolfo Ares say they want to send a clear message to ETA and the radical aberztale left that the governments are doing their part in sticking to what is expected of them following the terrorist group's announcement last October ordering a cease in hostilities for all its members. But along with this message the two officials also reaffirmed that there was no chance of a general amnesty for prisoners, and that reintegration would be decided on an individual basis after studying each inmate's case.

Ares said the transfer of inmates to Basque jails, where they can be in contact with other ETA members who have distanced themselves from the terrorist group, could help in their process of reintegration. The interior minister appeared to be receptive to this idea.

Last week, at a congress held by certain interest groups in Bilbao, a similar prisoner reintegration policy, on a case-by-case basis, was also supported. The measures under discussion are similar to ones used by the Italian government in dealing with inmates from the Red Brigade terrorist group, in which terrorists had to recognize the injuries and damage they had caused and renounce violence before being allowed to reintegrate into society.

Despite the break in the governing pact between the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists in the Basque Country, the interior minister and Ares say they want to reaffirm that they still both agree on a common anti-terrorism policy, in particular one that addresses the issue of ETA inmates.

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