TOWARD THE END OF ETA

Basque PP ready to ease terrorist prisoners' return to society

Ruling party to consider end to dispersion of convicts South African mediator says group shouldn't disband too quickly

The Popular Party (PP) in the Basque Country appears prepared to break one of its long-running taboos by taking an official stance on the transfer of ETA prisoners to regional jails at its upcoming convention next month, EL PAÍS has learned.

In a document filled with the PP's official positions on a number of matters, a clause is included entitled "Managing ETA's demise," and is signed by the Basque PP president Borja Samper. The PP said it will defend government policies on ETA prisoners but adds that it will support welcoming the convicted terrorists back into society only if they comply with the requirements set forth under the law.

For his part, South African lawyer Brain Currin, who is mediating ETA's demise, said he believes it is "a bit dangerous" to allow the Basque terrorist group to disband before the prisoners are released because they won't have an organization to help them "reintegrate" into society.

The PP's position comes at a crucial moment for ETA and its prisoners, who have been asking for early releases in some cases, and in others for members to be allowed to serve their sentences in Basque jails so they can be closer to their families.

Six months ago, ETA announced a cease in hostilities. Recently, Basque radical abertzale left leaders, such as Joseba Permach and Pernando Barrena, have asked ETA prisoners to recognize the legal authority's jurisdiction to make it easier for them to secure early release.

Permach and Barrena have used as arguments the abertzale's decision to abide by the Law of Political Parties, which enabled them to form Bildu and Amaiur and win seats in the national and regional parliaments.

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