Otegi gets 10-year jail term for belonging to ETA leadership

Former Batasuna leader convicted for trying to rebuild party

The High Court on Friday convicted Arnaldo Otegi, longtime leader of ETA's political wing, Batasuna, to 10 years in jail for "belonging to an armed group at the leadership level" and attempting to rebuild the outlawed party "on instructions from ETA." Four other people received eight- to 10-year sentences for related charges, while three other suspects were acquitted.

The court considered Otegi "the authorized spokesman for a group chosen from the abertzale [pro-independence extremists] to develop a new ETA strategy designed in December 2008, in which political actions were given priority over military ones, but which did not renounce the latter."

The decision was based on documents seized from ETA in 2008 and 2009, which show Otegi's subordination to the terrorist group. The terrorists, says the ruling, asked Otegi and the others to create a coordination group to plan a new strategy for returning to the political arena, following the outlawing of Batasuna in 2003.

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The court was unconvinced by Otegi's statements in June and July, when he said that ETA "is a hindrance" and that he was only interested in "a rejection of the armed struggle and support for political and democratic pathways."

Judges saw these as mere tactics with an eye on the local elections of May 2011. After failing in its attempt to register a new party named Sortu, the abertzale tried again with the Bildu coalition, which it claimed had no ties to ETA. Just days before voters went to the polls, the Constitutional Court narrowly decided that Bildu was eligible for running. The coalition went on to become the second biggest political force in the Basque region.

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