Politician held after ETA video summons ignored

 

SPANISH police arrested a leader of ETA's presumed political wing early yesterday.

Mr Jon Idigoras had failed to turn up at the High Court in Madrid on Tuesday to give evidence about his party's role in distributing an ETA video in which three hooded men promote violence as the means of winning the Basque country's independence. Mr Idigoras is a spokesman for Herri Batasuna, the party widely regarded as the political arm of ETA.

The government said last Friday it believed there could be grounds to outlaw Herri Batasuna - which won four seats in parliament in the last general election - based on its use of the ETA video.

Until now courts have had no proof of the link between the party and ETA, but after the video's appearance Judge Baltasar Garzon had summoned Mr Idigoras to answer allegations of association with an armed band.

Herri Batasuna members routinely disregard court summons, as part of their refusal to recognise the legitimacy of the Spanish state. On Tuesday, they said HB was represented by 25 leaders and warned that any move against Mr Idigoras would be seen as an act of revenge, lacking any legitimacy.

Mr Idigoras did nothing to avoid being arrested. He went drinking in a bar in his home town of Amorebieta in northern Spain on Tuesday night and took his dog for a walk.

The arrest comes in the middle of campaigning for a March 3rd general election, which is generally expected to end 13 years of Socialist rule and bring the centre right Popular Party to power.

Two assassinations this month, both believed to have been carried out by ETA, have increased fears of an upsurge of violence if the Popular Party wins. The party promises a clampdown on ETA and criticises the Socialists' failure to stop separatist violence.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators thronged central Madrid on Monday night to call for an end to ETA violence in the wake of last week's shooting of a university law professor.

Herr Batasuna said at a news conference yesterday that it was unswayed by mass demonstrations or grandiloquent speeches by politicians and would continue to broadcast the controversial video, Spanish National Radio reported.