Prisoners could be relocated if ETA disbands, says Basque leader

López open to talks with aim of reintegrating terrorists into society

Basque premier Patxi López on Thursday said he was in favor of progressively relocating ETA prisoners to the region so they can be close to their families, but wouldn't embark on discussions until the Basque terrorist group agrees to disband.

Speaking before regional lawmakers, López said that the eventual transfer of ETA inmates to Basque jails was a possibility "only and when" it would benefit their reintegration into society.

The prisoner proposal was one of the main points in a speech the Basque Socialist leader delivered before the region's parliament on peaceful coexistence and non-violence. It was also the first time that a Basque leader has publicly stated that he was willing to discuss one of ETA's requisites in the current search for a peace deal. ETA declared a ceasefire 12 months ago.

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"But for this to happen, we publicly and emphatically demand that ETA abandon all its terrorist activities and disband," he said. Reaction to López's words was divided along party lines. Basque Popular Party (PP) leader Antonio Basagoiti said that there should not be any discussions to changes to the government's penitentiary policy because it is ETA "that must make the first move."

Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) parliamentary spokesman Joseba Egibar did not want to comment on any issue regarding the transfer of inmates but said that "the debate on pacification has come late." He also suggested that López's speech was "a recognition" that the government believes that the dispersed ETA inmates are too far away from their families. The proposal was welcomed by the leftist pro-independence groups, Eusko Alkartasuna (EA) and Aralar.

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