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Batasuna (Unity) is a Basque political party based mainly in Spain but with a French presence, which is presumed to be associated with the Basque separatist armed group ETA. Their relation is similar to that of Northern Ireland's Sinn Féin and the IRA.
History and outline
It is part of the so-called Basque National Liberation Movement which includes social organizations, trade unions, youth (Jarrai and Gazteriak , now merged in Haika , and Segi ), and women's groups (Egizan). It has around 200,000 voters and won 10% of the vote in the 2001 regional elections after boycotting the last national elections. Batasuna had representatives in the European Parliament and in the parliaments of Navarre and the provinces of the Basque autonomous community. It also had members in many city councils and even ruled some. Currently, Batasuna still has some representatives in the Basque Parliament, but has lost all its representations in the other Spanish chambers since renewing their composition in elections held after the banning of the party.
In 1986, the administration of Felipe González organised a referendum to keep Spain inside NATO. Electoral rules were to count only votes in Spanish, while votes in other languages would count as null. Herri Batasuna resented that rule, which it considered a trap to prevent Basque nationalists from influencing the election, and called on its supporters to vote No in Spanish. When the Spanish administration changed the rules so as to count votes also in the coofitial languages of Spain, Herri Batasuna called to vote in Basque. The referendum won the vote in Spain, but the Basque Auntonomous Community's voters stood strongly against it.
Another important member of Batasuna is Jose Antonio Urrutikoetxea , alias "Josu Ternera ", main leader of ETA between 1987 and 1989, and accused of a number of homicides like the massacre of 21 people at Hipercor (shopping center in Barcelona). He was imprisoned in France after 1989, released after finishing his condemned term and was transferred to Spanish prisons, where he stayed for 2 more years until his liberation by the Constitutional Court, which stipulated that he had served his prison term in France. He was elected to the Basque parliament between 1999 and 2001, but lives in hiding because the Spanish courts have decided to reopen his charges. The charges were brought back after renewed efforts in the pursuit of Basque independentists by Aznar's government after 9.11.
Attempts to ban the party
The party denies any links to ETA. There have been a number of attempts to ban the party, and it has frequently changed its name as part of the effort to avoid this, being called Herri Batasuna, then becoming part of the Euskal Herritarrok coalition in the 1990s.
In 2002 there were renewed attempts by the Spanish government to ban the party. In June the parliament passed legislation that made parties that supported terrorism illegal. In July Batasuna was fined € 24 million for vandalism and street violence in 2001. Following a ETA car bomb attack on August 4 the Spanish parliament was recalled. The party was suspended for three years by Judge Baltasar Garzón on August 27 to allow him to investigate the party links to ETA, the ban refuses their representatives in elections, to hold public demonstrations or rallies and freezes their assets. On the 26th the Spanish parliament voted for an indefinite ban, 295 to 10. The party's main offices in Pamplona were closed by the police and further offices in San Sebastian, Bilbao and Vitoria were targeted.
Before the illegalization effort, a dissenting minority left the party to form Aralar. Aralar is against armed fight under the current circumstances of the Basque Country.
Declaration of illegality by the Spanish state
In 2003, Batasuna was declared illegal in Spain, after a reform of the law on political parties. In spite of legal text forbidding its reorganization under another name, former members planned running for the provincial and local elections of May 2003, under the names of Autodeterminaziorako Bilgunea (AuB , Meeting Place for Self-determination) and a plethora of local lists. Most of these lists were considered a disguise for Batasuna by the Spanish Supreme Court. This decision was confirmed by the Spanish Constitution Court in a rushed verdict. In spite of this, AuB campaigned for invalid votes .
After the election, followers of the local lists protested claiming the council seats corresponding to the invalid votes (127.000, a 10% of the total vote in the Basque Country).
In May 2003, Batasuna went into the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. In June, into the European one . In spite of this, Batasuna is today a legal party in France, and most Spanish leaders of Batasuna are free and offer their statements to press.
In May 2004, a list named Herritarren Zerrenda (Citizens' List) was presented in Spain and France to the European Parliament Election, 2004. Spanish tribunals rejected it, as a successor of Batasuna. However, the HZ list in France remained legal. HZ candidates in Spain then campaigned for null vote . There were more than 98,000 null votes in the Basque Autonomous Country and more than 15,000 in Navarre. Because of the high abstention, that was just 12% of the total votes. HZ leaders interpret that, since in the previous European elections the null vote was less than 1%, most of the nulls were for HZ.
For the Basque elections of 2005, Batasuna presented lists of candidates but they were dismissed as illegal. After the disassembling of the Basque parliament, Batasuna losest all their remaining elected representatives. Simultaneously, lists were presented by the new elector group Aukera Guztiak ("All the options"). The Spanish prosecutors, and the parties PP and PSOE have contended that Aukera Guztiak is actually another front for Batasuna and try to find evidence leading to its illegalization. The Basque Government and the Batasuna speakers protested these attempts. The issue went all the way to the Spanish Constitutional Court that confirmed the ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court , forbidding the AG lists.
Once the campaign had started, an unknown party named Communist Party of the Basque Territories (Partido Comunista de las Tierras Vascas - Euskal Herrialdeetako Alderdi Komunista) announced that they were ready to bring the programs of Batasuna and AG to the parliament. The party was founded in 2002 but had no activity until now. Like those parties, representatives of EHAK-PCTV have refused to explicitly condemn the ETA attacks. The People's Party has requested that the Spanish government conducts investigations to ban EHAK-PCTV too, though the State Legal Service (Abogacía General del Estado) and the Attorney General's Office (Fiscalía General del Estado) found no evidence to support legal actions against the party. Batasuna asked its supporters to vote for EHAK-PCTV.
In the Basque elections of April 17, 2005, EHAK-PCTV entered the Basque Parliament with nine seats and Aralar with one.
- The major Basque party is the moderate Basque Nationalist Party Eusko Alderdi Jeltzalea in Basque, Partido Nacionalista Vasco in Spanish, hence its initials EAJ-PNV.
- 14 November, 2004 BBC news story regarding call to stop armed conflict
- Batasuna homepage (down at 28-02-2005: see older versions at Internet archive)
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