Madrid: The Spanish trial of 35 members of Batasuna, the banned political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, was suspended on Monday after three of their six lawyers were arrested.
"The trial was suspended, because of the detention of three comrades," one of Batasuna`s defence lawyers, Jone Goirizelaia, told AFP following a wave of arrests on Monday morning.
Thirty-five suspected members of Batasuna were due to go on trial in Madrid accused of carrying out political activities to back ETA, which is blamed for killing 829 people in a four-decade campaign for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwest France.
Two French nationals, Aurore Martin and Haizpea Abrisqueta, are among the accused along with veteran Basque independence leaders such as Juan Jose Petrikorena.
Just before their trial was due to start Spain`s interior ministry announced in a statement the arrest of an undetermined number of people "who belong to different organisations that support the terrorist group ETA" in the northern Basque Country, Madrid and Navarra.
It said the operation was continuing and would provide further details later on Monday.
"A dozen people, including three lawyers were arrested in the Basque Country," Pernando Barrena, a spokesman for Sortu, a left-wing Basque separatist party which is made up of former Batasuna members, told AFP.
Martin, one of the two French nationals, blasted the trial as a "scandal".
"What happened this morning is also a scandal. It seems like these arrests had a direct impact on this trial and they have taken away our right to a defence," she added.
In October 2011, ETA declared a "definitive end to armed activity" but it has not formally disarmed nor disbanded as the Spanish and French governments demand.
The Spanish government refuses to negotiate with ETA, which has in any case been severely weakened in recent years by the arrests of its senior leaders in Spain and France.