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Eta: Basque Separatists Plan To Unilaterally Disarm On Saturday

The Basque militant group Eta says it will hand over all its weapons on Saturday – but warns that its enemies might still block the process.

The pledge came in a letter obtained by the BBC, confirming earlier reports about Eta disarmament plans.

Eta killed more than 800 people and wounded thousands in over 40 years of violence aimed at Basque independence.

Eta declared a ceasefire in 2011 but did not disarm. Spain refuses to negotiate with the armed group.

The letter, dated 7 April, says that “after giving up all its weaponry (arms and explosives) to Basque civil society representatives [Eta] now is a disarmed organisation”.

But further on it warns that “the process is not completed” and “‘disarmament day’ is tomorrow”.

“We want to warn that still the process can be attacked by the enemies of peace. The only real guarantee to succeed are the thousands of people gathering tomorrow in Bayonne [south-western France] supporting the disarmament.”

In recent years police in France and Spain have put Eta under severe pressure, arresting hundreds of militants, including leadership figures, and seizing many of the group’s weapons.

‘A bold move’ – the BBC’s Guy Hedgecoe in Madrid writes:

When Eta announced the end of its campaign of violence, in October 2011, disarmament was the next logical development. The fact it has taken the organisation so long to take that step probably reflects the reluctance of many within its ranks to do so when the Spanish and French governments have offered nothing in exchange.

Eta’s assertion that the “process is not completed” highlights a desire to see concessions in the future, particularly the transfer of many of almost 400 jailed members to prisons nearer their families.

But in the apparent absence of any such promises from Madrid or Paris, decommissioning is a bold move. It paves the way to Eta’s eventual disbanding and, possibly, to some form of reconciliation in Basque society.

A key figure in Eta’s move away from violence is believed to be the leader of the pro-independence Basque left, Arnaldo Otegi, who has served several jail terms for his links to the organisation. However, some Eta prisoners criticised him last year for compromising too much on their behalf.-BBC

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