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Spain Bans Basque Political Party,
Closes Newspaper

In March 2003 Spain's Supreme Court passed a sentence banning the political party Batasuna, alleging that it was part of a terrorist network controlled by the violent separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, (ETA) or Basque Fatherland and Liberty. It was the first time Spain outlawed a group under the Political Parties Law, passed in June 2002, which declares that parties failing to respect democratic or constitutional values are illegal.

Batasuna, which seeks independence for the Basque ethnic group, denies affiliation with ETA, and regularly says that it regrets ETA attacks. ETA is responsible for more than 800 deaths since its armed campaign for independence began in1968. The United States State Department lists it as a foreign terrorist organization, and the United States and the European Union have frozen ETA assets since the September 11 attacks. Spain opposes an independent Basque homeland, though its 1978 constitution designated an autonomous Basque region. The Basque government is responsible for education, health care, policing, and taxation.

Batasuna could still appeal to Spain's top judicial authority, the Constitutional Court. The Supreme Court ban, decided unanimously by all 16 judges, prevented Batasuna candidates from running in municipal elections in May 2003.

The crackdown on Batasuna followed the court-ordered closure in February 2003 of the Basque-language newspaper Euskaldunon Egunkaria and the arrest of 10 of its staff, on suspicions of collaborating with ETA. Spanish courts have closed two other Basque-language papers since 1998. On closing Egunkaria, National Audience (Audiencia Nacional) Judge Juan del Olmo stated that its publisher was created, financed and directed by ETA.

  • Mark Kurlansky, A Basque History of the World, (New York: Walker and Company, 1999).
  • Paddy Woodworth, Dirty War, Clean Hands: ETA, the GAL and Spanish Democracy, (Cork: Cork University Press, 2001).

Written April 17, 2003; Last updated March 26, 2008.

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