(AFP) – Oct 4, 2008
MADRID (AFP) — Demonstrators on Saturday marched through the streets of Bilbao, the financial capital of Spain's northern Basque Country, to protest a Supreme Court decision last month to ban two Basque independence parties.
The protesters walked behind a large banner which read "Freedom for Euskal Herria," using the Basque language name for the Basque Country.
The march was organised by left-wing Basque nationalists to protest the court's decision to ban the Basque Nationalist Action (ANV) and Communist Party of Basque Lands (PCTV) because of their links to Batasuna, the outlawed political wing of the armed separatist group ETA.
Among those who took part in the march was the president of ANV, Kepa Bereziartua, and the former spokesman for Batasuna, Arnaldo Otegi, who was released from jail in August after spending just over a year behind bars.
Batasuna has been banned as a party since 2003 for refusing to condemn violence and cut its links to ETA, which has killed over 820 people during its 40-year campaign for the independence of the Basque region.
In the early hours of Saturday a small bomb exploded outside a court in the Basque town of Tolosa following a warning call from a man claiming to speak in the name of ETA, causing extensive material damage but no injuries.
The bombing was seen as ETA's reply to the Supreme Court ruling against the two Basque parties.
The Basque Country already enjoys considerable autonomy and polls show most Basques do not want to secede from Spain.
But a vocal minority is pushing for an independent Basque homeland.
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