Inaki Zabaleta, spokesman of the Basque outlawed party Sortu, right, during a rally, in Bilbao in northern Spain, Saturday April 2, 2011, calling for the legalization of the Basque outlawed party Sortu
Source: Press TV
Tens of thousands of supporters of a new Basque pro-independence party have protested a Spanish court ruling that bans it from entering politics.
Protesters carried placards in support of the Sortu party as they marched through the city of Bilbao on Saturday, calling for the government to legalize the party, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
Late in March, the Supreme Court ruled that Sortu is illegal and cannot run in the local elections in May. The verdict says the party has close links with the Basque separatist group, ETA.
The Spanish government has repeatedly said all parties in the Basque region must reject ETA in order to gain legal status.
Sortu which officially rejected violence to achieve the independence of the Greater Basque Country, a region that encompasses parts of north Spain and southeast France, can appeal to the Constitutional Court. But even if it does that, the court's ruling will likely come after May's elections.
The new party, which was unveiled on February 7, is the culmination of intense internal debates within ETA-linked pro-independence groups. Some are skeptical of the newly-established party because it is backed by the ETA militant group.
ETA is responsible for the deaths of some 800 people during its four-decade-long fight for an independent Basque state. ETA's previous political wing, Batasuna, was also banned by Spanish courts in 2003.
The Spanish government has repeatedly said Batasuna and its members must reject ETA and condemn violence in order to regain legal status and take part in Basque politics.
Separatists claim that around 15 percent of the Basque population would vote for Batasuna, a number too large to disenfranchise.
Opponents to Basque separatism say Batasuna militants must be stopped from accessing local government budgets to back ETA.
ETA, which concluded that bombs and bullets were no longer an effective way to seek independence, declared a cease-fire in September 2010 and went further in January by calling it permanent.
The separatist group has called 11 truces throughout its 40-year history of fighting for independence.