TOWARD THE END OF TERRORISM

ETA willing to finally disband if PP changes its penitentiary policy

Inmates must be given chance to rejoin society, says "abertzale"

Government in no hurry to change prison policies

ETA is willing to permanently disarm and disband if the Popular Party (PP) government agrees to more flexible terms to its penitentiary policies that would allow terrorist inmates to reincorporate into society, say sources in the radical Basque abertzale left.

"The willingness of ETA to disband is absolute, but the current problem lies with a minority number of inmates who do not recognize the legitimacy of the penal system. Flexibility by the government in its penitentiary policy would help break the current stalemate," said the sources.

Since ETA declared its definitive ceasefire on October 20, 2011, the PP government has increased pressure on the Basque terrorists to turn over their weapons and disband before any peace talks can be held. Some 30 ETA members have been arrested since then, the majority of them in France, Belgium, Italy and Britain.

The abertzale left - which became the second political force in the Basque Country through the EH Bildu coalition after the October 21 regional elections - has said it will not tolerate any attempts by ETA to return to its violent past and has asked the terrorists to take significant steps toward their final breakup. But the sources said this cannot take place while there are 700 inmates in Spanish and French prisons, being held under laws that apply to active terrorist groups.

The abertzale wants the inmates to be allowed to apply for transfers to Basque jails, which would bring them closer to their families and make it easier for them to be reincorporated into society.

ETA inmates should be afforded some leeway, which would allow them to reinsert themselves into society and participate in the political process - similar to the way the abertzale was allowed to become legitimate under the Law of Political Parties by, among other things, publicly renouncing violence - the sources explain.

But the government appears not to be in any rush to deal with the abertzale's request. "ETA is very weak and it is better that it disbands as soon as possible if it wants to improve its inmates' condition because if not, we will break them up ourselves," said one anti-terrorism law enforcement official.

Of the 500 inmates being held in Spanish jails, about 70 are dead set against recognizing the government's penitentiary policies, including measures to rejoin society. Leading this pact is Javier García Gaztelu, alias "Txapote," who is serving time for the murders of PP councilors Gregorio Ordóñez in 1995 and Miguel Ángel Blanco in 1997.

 

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