TOWARD THE END OF TERRORISM

ETA inmates group sticks to its amnesty demands

Basque 'abertzale' circles had been expecting "historic" announcement by prisoners' association

In what was expected to be an historic turnaround by ETA on its position concerning its members locked up in Spanish jails, the Basque terrorist group’s prisoners association (EPPK) reiterated its demand on Saturday for the government to offer a blanket amnesty for a group of inmates as part of the negotiations for the organization to lay down its weapons and disband.

The Basque abertzale radical left had anticipated that the EPPK would announce that it was prepared to follow a proposed plan being studied by both central and regional governments to help individual prisoners return to society through a program aimed at those who have renounced ETA and recognize the damage caused by the terrorist group’s campaign of violence over the past 50 years.

Joseba Permach, one of the abertzale’s leaders who was the first to demand three months ago that EPPK agree to flexible terms to help secure early releases for certain inmates, had said that the prisoners’ association announcement was to be “historic.”

But on Saturday, some in the abertzale were disappointed when the EPPK released its statement demanding what it called “a self-determining amnesty” plan for a bloc of its prisoners. It also issued a rejection of the reinsertion scheme, provisionally called the Nanclares program after the prison outside Vitoria in the Basque Country, whereby inmates are moved to jails in the region if they pledge to break all ties with ETA.

Against the law

The Popular Party government of Mariano Rajoy has said that it won’t accept the EPPK’s demands for amnesty because it is illegal.

The statement described the Nanclares program as a “repentant-betrayal” strategy because it forces prisoners to reject ETA at the same time as cooperating with authorities. EPPK said that it was, however, open to other options but did not specify what these might be.

At a meeting Saturday in Gernika, where abertzale members gathered to read the statement, some pointed out that the EPPK did support ETA’s ceasefire announcement last October and recognized the suffering caused to the organization’s victims.

“We recognize that the [conflict] has caused damage and victims,” the EPPK statement read.

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