• Spanish police arrest 22 senior members of Batasuna political party in Basque town of Segura
• Anti-terrorism judge Baltasar Garzon detains 17 Batasuna leaders
• Pernando Barrena, leader of outlawed Batasuna announces, “Operation is a total declaration of war against Basque independence”
• ETA remains significant threat to Spanish peace and security
On October 4, 2007, Spanish authorities arrested 22 members of Spain’s pro-Basque independence political party, Batasuna . Approximately 20 individuals were senior figures of the banned political party and are accused of holding a secretive meeting to discuss re-organizing the party in an effort to handover power from the old guard to new leaders.
Spain’s supreme court outlawed Batasuna in 2002 citing the party was the political wing of the armed militant group, ETA.
Enrique Lopez of the Spanish judicial watchdog, the General Council of Judicial Power stated, “We are not prosecuting Batasuna for its ideas, nor for its words, but for its actions”
ETA’s history of perseverance will likely continue. To this end, we believe the recent arrest of top Batasuna leaders will serve as a striking blow to the organization, however its effects will be short lived. Batasuna will regroup and a fresh set of leaders will emerge to take the helm to retaliate against the Spanish government.
Authorities Arrest Batasuna Leaders
On October 4, 2007, Spanish authorities arrested 22 members of the pro-Basque independence political party, Batasuna in the Basque town of Segura.
Police secured the town where 22 members of Batasuna’s leaders were believed to be meeting to discuss an imminent transfer of power. In accordance with orders issued by Judge Baltasar Garzon, police arrested senior Batasuna members to include:
• Joseba Permach (Batasuna spokesman)
• Juan Jose Petrokorena (in charge of Batasuna’s communications strategy)
• Juan Kruz Aldasoro
• Rufi Etxeberria
The operation is the latest in four months of operations against the militant pro-Basque independence group, ETA, and follows the June 2007 arrest of Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi.
Seventeen members of the outlawed party remain in detention provisionally charged with membership in an armed group. Anti-terrorism Judge, Baltasar Garzon, released four others on bail and another two were released due to lack of evidence.
Batasuna Leader Claims Raid Is Declaration of War
On October 8, 2007, Batasuna senior leader, Pernando Barrena, announced the October 4, 2007, arrest of 22 key Batasuna leaders was a, “declaration of war against Basque independence.”
Barrena spoke to journalists at a press conference in the northern Basque city of San Sebastian stating, “This police operation uncovers the decision of the Spanish government, which is to issue a total declaration of war against Basque independence,” adding, “the repression will not make us back down.”
Barrena, the group’s only top leader still at liberty, asserted the raid was due to Batasuna’s hardline approach to peace talks with the Spanish government.
Attacks Will Continue
As we previously reported, in the months following the June 5, 2007, announcement officially ending a 15-month ceasefire, Spanish police have significantly ramped up anti-terrorism efforts, specifically targeting suspected ETA members (Previous Report).
Accordingly, ETA has continued to wage attacks against the Spanish government. Despite the recent arrests of leading Batasuna political party leaders, ETA’s history of perseverance will likely continue.
To this end, we believe the recent arrest of top Batasuna leaders will serve as a striking blow to the organization, however its effects will be short lived. Batasuna will regroup and a fresh set of leaders will emerge to take the helm to retaliate against the Spanish government.
Further, we believe the renewed focus on the terror group will likely continue to result in continued Basque separatists’ efforts to attack Spain in the near-term.