Sortu seeks legal status despite government insistence of ETA link

Strasbourg court sides with Batasuna leader Otegi in king slander case

Sortu, a new party created by Basque hardline separatists, on Tuesday sought to convince the Supreme Court that it is not merely a continuation of Batasuna, the outlawed political wing of the terrorist group ETA, as the government claims it is. A Sortu representative turned in documents it hopes will convince the court to recognize the party as legal and let it run in May's local elections.

Justice Minister Francisco Caamaño said on Tuesday that the public prosecutor has enough evidence to prove Sortu is just the latest in a list of Batasuna spin-offs. "As the law stands, if this is proven, it cannot be registered," he said.

Based on police reports, the public prosecutor believes that Sortu is being used "tactically" by ETA as a way to return to the political arena in time for the elections. To comply with the Party Law, Sortu's charter condemns all violence yet fails to ask ETA to lay down its guns.

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Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on Tuesday ordered Spain to pay 23,000 euros to Arnaldo Otegi, a longtime Batasuna leader, for what it considers his disproportionate punishment for calling King Juan Carlos "the chief of the torturers" in February 2003.

The Spanish Supreme Court gave Otegi, who is currently in prison serving a separate conviction, a one-year term for slander. The European court said Otegi's freedom of speech had been violated.

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