Basque separatist leader renews `rejection of violence`

Arnaldo Otegi and 2 associates have been on trial for "glorifying terrorism".

Madrid: Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi on Friday confirmed his "rejection of violence" at the end of his trial on charges of "glorifying terrorism".

"We reject the use of violence to put forward a political plan," said the spokesman for Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed separatist group ETA.

"We appeal for a process of democratic solutions," he said in a brief statement at the end of his trial in Madrid, without specifically referring to ETA.

Otegi and two associates have been on trial since Thursday for "glorifying terrorism" during a political meeting of Batasuna before 15,000 people in the Basque city of San Sebastian in 2004.

Otegi has denied the charges, saying he was merely trying "to put in black and white a proposal to allow for a peaceful resolution" of the Basque conflict.

In March, he was condemned to two years in prison for "glorifying terrorism" in a separate case. He risks a further 18 months in jail if convicted on the new charge.

The trial, which ended on Friday, comes just weeks after Otegi called on ETA to declare a permanent ceasefire.

He told Spain`s El Pais daily last month that if he had the ETA leadership before him, he would ask them to renounce violence and declare a "unilateral and permanent truce which can be verified by the international community".

"There is no other path to independence other than those that follow the peaceful and democratic paths," he told the newspaper.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

Its announcement in September of a truce has been met with scepticism from the Spanish government because it has broken such ceasefires without warning in the past.

Bureau Report

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