17 May, 2023 @ 15:21
2 mins read

Prosecutor at Spain’s High Court shelves bid to have former ETA terrorists banned from running in elections

Eta Basque Wikipedia Cc
ETA communique Photo: CC wikipedia UKBERRI.NET Uribe Kosta eta Erandioko agerkari digitala

THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR in Spain’s High Court has shelved a lawsuit aimed at stopping 44 convicted terrorists from running in the upcoming local and regional elections, which will be held on May 28. The inclusion of former members of Basque terror group ETA in the candidate lists for political party EH Bildu has caused outrage among politicians and victims alike. 

The lawsuit had been filed by a victims’ association called Dignidad y Justicia (DyJ) last Thursday. The scope of the legal action was widened on Monday when the group called for the party to be outlawed altogether. 

However, in a four-page ruling seen by news agency Europa Press, High Court prosecutors found that no offences had been committed and nor were the 44 candidates – including seven who were found guilty of murder – ineligible to run in the upcoming elections. 

EH Bildu is a nationalist coalition that seeks independence for the northern Basque Country region of Spain. It has historic links to other radical leftist parties that were outlawed in Spain during ETA’s bloody campaign, such as Batasuna. 

ETA was operational between 1959 and 2018, the year when it was officially dissolved. The group killed nearly 830 people between 1968 and 2010, and injured tens of thousands more.

The controversy caused by the news last week that the EH Bildu lists contained former ETA terrorists has so far dominated the local and regional election campaign, which officially began at the weekend. 

The situation has put Socialist Party Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in a difficult position, given that his government – a coalition with the leftist Unidas Podemos – lacks a working majority and has relied on the votes of smaller parties, including EH Bildu, to pass legislation. 

The opposition Popular Party (PP) has used the issue to attack the government in the run-up to the May 28 elections, with a general election also due to be held before the end of the year. 

On Wednesday the PP said that it would file a proposal in Congress that will seek a commitment from the government to not do deals with EH Bildu while there are convicted terrorists on its candidate lists as well as in its party structure. 

The prime minister and PP leader Alberto Nuñez Feijoo came to blows on Tuesday over the issue during a tense debate in the Senate.

The PP chief accused Sanchez of being ‘more generous with the executioners than with the victims’. 

Sanchez responded to Feijoo’s attacks by arguing that the PP was using terrorism for political gain and to cover up a lack of policies for Spain. 

“When ETA is no longer anything, for you ETA is everything, because in your desperation, even though ETA doesn’t exist, it’s the only thing you have,” he said during the debate,

On Tuesday it also emerged that the seven EH Bildu candidates who served sentences for murder have pledged to not take up their places on local councils even if they were to be elected, in the wake of the controversy caused by their candidacies.

At the weekend, the prime minister called the move by EH Bildu ‘indecent’.

“There are things that may be legal but are not decent and this is one of them,” he said, in comments reported by Europa Press. He added that the only thing that ‘these people’ can contribute to society is a ‘message of sorrow, reparations and regret’. 

However, he has so far stopped short of committing not to doing deals with the party. 

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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