Friday, August 25, 2006


Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports thousands of Basques marched Friday in Bilbao to request independence for the northern Spanish region and a new impulse to planned peace talks with the government.

Demonstrators waved Basque, Palestinian and Lebanese flags and shouted slogans urging the release of some 600 imprisoned activists of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, which is blamed for more than 800 deaths since 1968.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced peace talks with ETA in June, but the process has not taken off the ground.

The following is from EITB.

Thousands of people call for self-determination in Bilbao rally

The demonstration passed off without incident. Batasuna's Goirizelaia denounced the left-wing party Batasuna was still outlawed five months after ETA announced a ceasefire.

Chanting slogans in favor of independence and waving red, white and green Basque flags, the morning demonstration was attended by people of all ages.

Mixed among the protesters were leaders of the banned political party Batasuna including Joseba Permach, Joseba Alvarez, Pernando Barrena and Jone Goirizelaia. Prominent Basque nationalist Tasio Erkizia the leaders of the LAB trade union Rafa Díez Usabiaga and Txutxi Ariznabarreta also attended the rally.

The march was authorized by National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon after he confirmed that Batasuna was not behind it.

The protest march was called by a group of 50 Basque citizens who said they were "leftists and Basque nationalists"and were acting independently of Batasuna, which was banned by the Spanish Supreme Court in 2003 on grounds it is part of ETA.

In Garzon's ruling he told police and regional authorities to be vigilant for any sign of Batasuna, that would immediately halt the march.

The demonstrators complied and carried flags and banners calling for Basque independence.

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