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Batasuna

Batasuna ("Unity") is a Basque political party based mainly in Spain but with a French presence, which is presumed to be associated with the Basque separatist armed group ETA. Their relation is similar to that of Sinn Fein and IRA.

The party was founded in 1978 as Herri Batasuna[?] ("People Unity"), a coalition of leftist nationalist political groups following the Basque region's rejection of the new Spanish constitution[?].

It is part of the Basque National Liberation Movement[?], that includes social organizations, trade unions, youth (Segi[?], Jarrai[?] and Haika[?]), and women's groups. It has around 200,000 voters and won 10% of the vote in the 2001 regional elections after boycotting the last national elections. Batasuna has representatives in the European Parliament and in regional councils in Basque Country and Navarre. It also has members or even rules in many city councils.

The party current speakers are Arnaldo Otegi[?] and Joseba Permach[?]. Otegi was a member of the armed groups ETA-political-military[?] (since 1977 or before, until 1981), and ETA-military[?] (since 1981).

Another important member of Batasuna is Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea[?], alias "Josu Ternera[?]", main leader of ETA between 1987 and 1989, and accused of a number of homicides like the massacre of 21 people at Hipercor[?] (shopping center in Barcelona). Batasuna appointed him, between 1999 and 2001, as its representative in the Human Rights Commission of the Basque Parliament[?].

The party denies any links to ETA. There have been a number of attempts to ban the party, and it has frequently changed its name as part of the effort to avoid this, being called Herri Batasuna, then becoming part of the Euskal Herritarrok[?] coallition in the 1990s.

In 2002 there were renewed attempts by the Spanish government to ban the party. In June the parliament passed legislation that made parties that supported terrorism illegal. In July Batasuna was fined Euro 24 million for vandalism and street violence in 2001. Following a ETA car bomb attack on August 4 the Spanish parliament was recalled. The party was suspended for three years by Judge Baltasar Garzón[?] on August 27 to allow him to investigate the party links to ETA, the ban refuses them representatives in elections, to hold public demonstrations or rallies and freezes their assets. On the 26th the Spanish parliament voted for an indefinite ban, 295 to 10. The party's main offices in Pamplona were closed by the police and further offices in San Sebastian, Bilbao and Vitoria were targeted.

Before the illegalization effort, a dissenting minority left the party to form Aralar[?]. Aralar is against armed fight under the current circunstances of the Basque Country.

In 2003, Batasuna was declared illegal in Spain. In spite of legal text forbidding its reorganization under another name, former members planned running for the provincial and local elections of May 2003, under the names of Autodeterminaziorako Bilgunea[?] (AuB[?], Meeting Place for Self-determination) and a plethora of local lists. Most of these lists were considered a disguise for Batasuna by the Spanish Supreme Court. This decision was confirmed by the Spanish Constitution Court in a rushed verdict. In spite of this, AuB has been campaigning for invalid votes[?].

After the election, followers of the local lists protested claiming the council seats corresponding to the invalid votes (127.000, a 10% of the total vote in the Basque Country).

In May 2003, Batasuna went into the U.S. list of terrorist organizations[?]. In June, into the European one[?]. In spite of this, Batasuna is today a legal party in France, and most Spanish leaders of Batasuna are free.

The major Basque party is the moderate EAJ-PNV[?] (Partido Nacionalista Vasco).

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