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Gipuzkoa chief shows support for release of ETA prisoners

Bildu mayor calls for compassion "for those who are sick and others who qualify for parole"

Gipuzkoa provincial administrator Martín Garitano came out in support of ETA prisoners on Monday and called on the government to release "those who are sick and others who qualify for parole."

It was a rare and controversial show of support for terrorist inmates from a top government official. Garitano, a Bildu member who assumed the reins of the Basque province's government in June, took advantage of his visit to Azpeitia in Gipuzkoa to meet with the families of ETA prisoners who were holding a demonstration during the town's annual Saint Ignacio festival.

He was accompanied by Lohitzune Txarola, the head of the provincial parliament, and Azpeitia Mayor Eneko Etxeberria, who are both members of Bildu.

Garitano did not attend a mass given by Bishop José Ignacio Munilla, who has campaigned for the disbanding of the Basque terrorist group. Speaking to reporters, Garitano also called on the "immediate" revocation of the so-called Parot doctrine, which has allowed the High Court to keep ETA prisoners in jail for 30 years. The Constitutional Court is reviewing a host of sentencing appeals filed by ETA inmates. The provincial chief also came out in favor of the legalization of Sortu.

Garitano was voted into office on June 26 after Basque nationalists and Socialists failed in their attempt to come up with a partnership to prevent the pro-independence coalition from governing.