23rd July 2024
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Political storm as 44 convicted ETA members to run in Basque elections

A political storm has broken out after EH Bildu, a Basque nationalist party, presented its candidate lists for the forthcoming local and regional elections that take place on 28 May across Spain, with the lists including 44 people convicted of belonging to or collaborating with the Basque separatist terror group ETA.

Among the candidates, seven were convicted for murder, and each of the 44 has served a prison sentence. The pro-separatist EH Bildu party is active in the Basque Country, Navarra and also in Burgos (Castilla y León).

Among those on the lists are two former leaders of Batasuna, a separatist party that was banned in 2003 after a court found it was financing ETA activity. They are Adolfo Araiz, who is seeking election to the Navarra regional parliament, and Hasier Arraiz, who is running for the local council in Vitoria. The latter was sentenced as recently as 2016 to two years in prison for involvement in a terrorist organisation.

Seven candidates were convicted for their roles in several murders committed by ETA between 1978 and 2001. ETA was responsible for the killing of at least 853 people between 1968 and 2010.

The list of candidates also includes Agustín Muiños Díaz, known as Tinin, who is running for Mayor in Legutio in Álava. In 1985 Dias was sentenced to 29 years in prison for the 1983 murder of José Antonio Julián Bayano. There is also Arriaga Martínez, running for office in Berrioplano (Navarra), and who was sentenced to 29 years in prison in 1989 for the murder of Jesús Alcocer Jiménez in 1984.

In Bizkaia, Asier Uribarri Benito appears on the list for the Maruri-Jatabe City Council. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison as an accomplice in the 1997 murder of Guardia Civil agent José Manuel García Fernández.

Former ETA members who have an involvement with EH Bildu is a controversial issue in Spanish politics. 

Former conservative Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar said in 1999, while ETA was still active: ‘Taking possession of a seat is always preferable to taking up arms. This is the short, clear and democratic question.’

After ETA finally disbanded, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who was the socialist Prime Minister at the time, later recalled, ‘We said that if they gave up terror they would have a place in the institutions, and I believe that this democratic promise must be kept’.

The controversial electoral lists have sparked shock around Spain, however, with many different groups condemning EH Bildu’s decision to include convicted terrorists in electoral politics, calling it ‘another provocation’.

Victims group Covite has denounced the candidates, who appear on 300 electoral lists at various level, and suggest it is ‘a danger to democracy’ that people with ‘criminal and terrorist histor’ are running for public office.

‘No dignified democracy, no state with the rule of law aware of the significance of its victims of terrorism would allow the revolving doors of terrorists to be in politics,’ said Consuelo Ordóñez, Covite’s president.

In an interview with Nius Diario [see Tweet link below], Ordóñez said: ‘The candidates that Bildu has presented for 28 May are an ostentation of the nationalist left, because they are also unrepentant ETA members. If they were, they would not be on the lists. It is one more provocation.’

EH Bildu’s candidate for the Navarre presidency, Laura Aznal, has defended the candidate lists, suggesting that they ‘have passed through the electoral board without any problems’.

The issue has also caused ripples at the national political level. Spokeswoman Cuca Gamarra of the main right-wing opposition party, the People’s Party (PP), has used the electoral lists to attack socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez ahead of the upcoming election. Holding up a newspaper with faces of convicted ETA members, she said: ‘This is the electoral poster of the socialist party (PSOE).’

The PSOE-led coalition government has at times relied on votes from EH Bildu to pass legislation in the Spanish parliament. 

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