Basque separatist organisation apologises, will disband

The Basque separatist organisation, ETA, says it will lay down its arms next month. The announcement has Spanish church leaders giving thanks to God.

ETA has apologised to its victims, saying it regrets the harm caused by its violent campaign for an independent homeland.

“We thank God this terrible nightmare of blood and horror is now over — and we should congratulate ourselves on this victory for the Spanish people’s democracy,” Father Jose Maria Gil Tamayo says.

Tamayo, who is the spokesman for the Madrid-based bishops’ conference, says no idea can justify terrorism.

It is always perverse in origin and essence, and nothing and nobody can justify the death of the “long list” of innocents, he says.

In his opinion effective reconciliation would require “difficult, costly, lengthy and most demanding work,” since suffering would not “end with a declaration.”

Catholic bishops from Spain’s Basque and Navarre regions say they hope peace will “take root forever.”

They have also pledged solidarity with victims of the violence.

“The church has received from Jesus Christ the vocation to be an instrument of peace and justice, consolation and reconciliation…

“… many men and women of the church have given their best in this task, sometimes heroically,” they say.

“But we know there have also been acts of complicity, ambiguity and omission among us, for which we sincerely ask forgiveness.”

Spain’s bishops previously have threatened to excommunicate members of ETA, which killed more than 800 people.

ETA was formed during the 1960s during the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

At the time, the Basque language and culture were suppressed.

Observers have cautioned that ETA has broken pledges and agreements in the past. It has also demanded the freeing of hundreds of imprisoned Basque militants, they say.

These militants have included top-ranking figures from the leadership of Herri Batasuna, a banned Basque political party co-led by a Catholic priest.

A day after ETA promised to end its decades-long campaign, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Bilbao in northern Spain.

They are demanding better conditions for jailed ETA members or collaborators.

Shouting “Basque prisoners home”, they called for ETA prisoners to be transferred to jails closer to the Basque region, and freedom for those who are ill.

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News category: World.

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