Basque radicals try new tack as election ban looms

Sortu group plans to field 'clean' candidates with legal party

Hardline Basque separatists trying to register a new party to run in local elections next May have activated a "plan B" in case their bid gets rejected by the courts. "One way or another, we're going to be in those elections," said a source close to those involved.

The new party, Sortu, is widely considered nothing more than an extension of the outlawed political branch of ETA, Batasuna. The attorney general has formally asked the Supreme Court not to legalize the party and Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has said Sortu cannot be legal unless ETA ceases to exist.

Although Sortu sought to comply with Spain's Party Law by expressly rejecting the use of violence in its charter - a symbolic first for radical separatists - police reports note that several Sortu candidates are former Batasuna members, and were found to be keeping a bank account to provide financial assistance to jailed ETA members.

More information
Sortu "will be at ETA's service," say investigators
Bank account and seized documents tie Sortu to ETA, state legal body says
Sortu seeks legal status despite government insistence of ETA link

Radical separatists, fearful they will be denied the possibility of returning to the political arena, have hatched a plan B. This consists of including "clean" candidates (with no police records) in the lists of another pro-independence party, Eusko Alkartasuna (EA), which has always been considered legal and without direct ties to ETA since its inception in 1986. In June of last year, radical separatists and EA leaders agreed to a strategic alliance.

Nevertheless, Sortu founders have not given up on their original plan yet. On Tuesday, its lawyers will seek to convince the Supreme Court that the new party represents a clean break with Batasuna, despite the fact that many of its members are the same.

In January, ETA announced a new "permanent, general and verifiable" ceasefire that the government deemed insufficient because the text set down political conditions for laying down its weapons definitively.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS