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Sortu remains silent on ETA cell arrests

Rajoy: "Sortu is a franchise of ETA"

The silence of Basque abertzale political grouping Sortu over the arrest of four members of an ETA cell in Vizcaya has drawn criticism from political parties. Manuel Chaves, the Socialist Party chairman, said Sortu's reticence "amply reflects the credibility of its aspirations to partake in the democratic life of Spain."

"[Sortu] is an ETA franchise, making a mockery of the law in order to stand in elections," PP leader Mariano Rajoy said of the political heir to the outlawed separatist party Batasuna.

A political ally of Sortu, nationalist left party Aralar, struck a different note. "If there had been an attack, Sortu's silence would be something to bear in mind," said Aralar's regional parliamentary spokesman, Aintzane Ezenarro.

The Solicitor General's office will today ask the Supreme Court to prohibit Sortu from enrolling on the political party register. The state legal body describes the latest incarnation of the Basque abertzale left as a "tactical plot" by Batasuna "that has not severed ties with ETA."

Judicial sources told news agency Efe that an addendum to the Solicitor General's request will ask the court to instruct the Interior Ministry to suspend the process of Sortu's inscription on the register.

The state's recommendation has been prepared after studying reports from the police and the Civil Guard on the new political party. These investigations concluded that Sortu is an instrument of Batasuna "at the service of ETA."