Spain moves to ban Basque parties from election
MADRID Jan 25 (Reuters) - Spanish prosecutors have compiled a dossier of evidence to ban two Basque political parties accused of having links to the armed separatist group ETA, the deputy prime minister said on Friday.
ETA has waged a decades-long campaign of violence to force independence for the Basque country.
But the government has been accused of dragging its feet on whether to ban Accion Nacionalista Vasca (ANV) and Partido Comunista de la Tierra Vasca (PCTV) and of timing the announcement to score points ahead of a March 9 election.
"Let's be clear ... the time to do this wasn't before or after but now," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told reporters at a news conference. "It's now that we have not just suspicions but overwhelming proof."
Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has long been accused by the conservative opposition of being soft on ETA, with which he tried and failed to negotiate a peace deal. But authorities have cracked down hard on the rebels and their sympathisers since ETA called off a truce in June.
"They (the government) are trying to collapse a political movement that is trying make solid foundations for democracy," Marine Pueyo, an ANV parliamentary candidate, told Basque nationalist Web site Gara.
"They are trying to ban the political activities of a party whose direction is socialism and independence."
Fernandez de la Vega said it was clear ANV and PCTV were fronts for Batasuna, the political party most closely linked to ETA that has been banned for several years. Many Batasuna members are in jail awaiting trial.
She said the final decision on whether to ban the parties would be down to the courts and dodged a question about what would happen to ANV councillors who have already been elected to local government if the party were banned.
"In a democracy, the government must ensure that everyone acts lawfully, there's no place for anyone who wants to operate outside the law," she added.
ETA has killed more than 800 people in a four decade-long campaign of violence in its attempt to force the independence of the Spanish and French Basque country.
ETA's latest killings were of two undercover Spanish Guardia Civil police last December in southern France. (Reporting by Joe Ortiz; Editing by Alison Williams)
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