Basque ETA confirms 8 April disarmament

A protest organised by 'Movement for the Amnesty and against Repression of the Basque Country' demanding the release of ETA prisoners from Spanish jails. Bilbao, April 2016. [Luis Tejido/EPA]

The Basque separatist group ETA has confirmed it will disarm on Saturday (8 April), in a letter published by the BBC.

“‘Disarmament day’ is tomorrow and we want to warn that still the process can be attacked by the enemies of peace,” the group said in a letter published in English and Spanish and dated 7 April.

In the note, addressed to the international community and published by the BBC late Thursday (6 April), the ETA said it had given up “all its weaponry (arms and explosives) to Basque civil society representatives” and described itself as a “disarmed organization”.

The group said Bayonne, a city in the French Basque region, will be the focal point of the disarmament process where it expected thousands of people to gather on Saturday.

ETA’s confirmation comes after the head of the regional Basque government, Inigo Urkullu, said last month that the separatist group planned to fully lay down its weapons by 8 April.

Urkullu at the time called on the Spanish and French governments to “show ambitious vision and open direct lines of communication” with ETA.

But Madrid, a strong opponent of ETA, rebuffed the plea and instead demanded the group “dissolve” and never reappear.

In its newly-published letter, ETA said the process of disarming has been “a hard and difficult task”, praising the Basque authorities while accusing Spain and France of being “stubborn”.

The ETA, founded in 1959 and considered a terrorist group by the European Union, is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.

It gave up its armed struggle in 2011 but has been seeking to negotiate its dissolution in exchange for amnesties or improved prison conditions for roughly 350 members of the group being held in Spain and France.

Around 100 are serving sentences of more than 10 years.

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