Thousands march in Spain for ETA prisoners` rights

Protest was called by leftist Basque nationalist groups, including Etxerat.

Bilbao: Tens of thousands of people marched in the northern Spanish city of Bilbao on Saturday to demand more rights for jailed members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA and their families.

The protest was called by leftist Basque nationalist groups, including Etxerat, an association of family members of ETA prisoners.

A judge in Madrid on Friday rejected a legal move to ban the march by an association representing the rights of ETA victims. He argued that the protest was not intended to "glorify" ETA or "humiliate the victims" of the organisation.

The demonstrators marched peacefully across the Basque financial capital behind a banner in the Basque language reading, "Basque prisoners for the Basque Country with all rights, let`s take a step forward."

Some of the marchers chanted "Basque prisoners home”.

Etxerat claims jailed ETA members are dispersed in prisons throughout Spain which makes it difficult for them to receive visits from family members.

The group also recently charged that a number of ETA prisoners have died in jail or shortly after being released due to "inhuman and extreme conditions" while incarcerated.

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.

The Spanish government has vowed to eradicate ETA unless it unilaterally and unconditionally renounces violence and disarms.

It has rejected a series of ETA statements offering a ceasefire under the right conditions.

ETA`s outlawed political wing Batasuna is also urging the group to declare an unconditional ceasefire.

Bureau Report

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