'Abertzale' groups pressure ETA prisoners to isolate terrorists

Convicts debating whether to sign up to Gernika peace agreement; government says no deals possible until organization disappears

ETA convicts in Spanish jails are debating whether to support a document called the Gernika Agreement, penned by radical pro-independence groups last September, and asking the terrorist organization for "a permanent, unilateral and verifiable ceasefire as an expression of its will to definitively lay down its weapons."

That same document, however, also demands major state concessions such as the repeal of the Political Parties Law, which establishes that all groupings must unequivocally reject the use of violence for political means. Batasuna, ETA's political wing, was outlawed in 2003 because it refused to do so.

The debate is being encouraged by the abertzale left, radical Basque nationalists who were ETA's support group until they decided to publicly support non-violence. Now that ETA seems to have lost its iron grip over its prisoners, who are increasingly speaking out in favor of peace, the abertzale feel it is time to win them over to their cause.

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But so far, government officials are saying that there will be no concessions until ETA disappears completely. The last time the government and ETA sat down was in 2006, although those talks ultimately failed. "The abertzale left is encouraging a prisoner debate on the Gernika document because it wants to control the people around ETA without ETA's guidance, because they know it is in a situation of extreme weakness," said an Interior Ministry source.

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