Basque party condemns arrest of ETA military chief
BAYONNE - Agence France-PresseBasque separatist group ETA's outlawed political wing lashed out at France Monday for the arrest of a man authorities say is the ETA's military commander, calling it a sign of ongoing repression.
The Batasuna party "condemns in the strongest terms" the arrests of Oroitz Gurruchaga Gogorza and his deputy Xabier Aramburu, spokesman Jean-Francois Lefort told AFP, after French and Spanish authorities announced the arrests Sunday following a joint operation in southwest France.
Lefort called on French President Francois Hollande's new administration to "begin finding a solution to the issue of freeing Basque political prisoners" and to "immediately stop all forms of repression".
"The Hollande government, rather than take a positive attitude on setting up a peace process, is managing the Basque issue by the old instruction manual, written by the Spanish government, whose objective is to continue solely down the path of repression, which is doomed to failure," he said.
Batasuna is banned in Spain but legal in France.
ETA is blamed for 829 killings during a four-decade armed campaign for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southern France.
Gurruchaga and Aramburu are being held for questioning in the southwestern city of Bayonne, a source close to the case told AFP Monday.
French law allows suspects in terrorism cases to be held for questioning for up to 96 hours.
Their arrests bring to 15 the number of people arrested on suspicion of ETA ties since the group announced "the definitive cease of its armed activity" in October last year.
Despite the announcement, ETA has not surrendered its weapons or disbanded.
ETA is pressing for direct talks with France and Spain, but both governments have rejected negotiations and called for the group to disband.
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls is due to visit Spain on Tuesday to meet with his counterpart Jorge Fernandez Diaz.
The French interior ministry said Monday the two would discuss joint police operations against ETA.
At a May 18 meeting of European interior ministers in Munich, Valls called ETA a "terrorist organisation" and said France's crackdown on the group would not soften under Hollande's administration.