Fri Apr 7, 2017 09:13AM
Leader of far-left Basque pro-independence party EH Bildu, Arnaldo Otegi, speaks at a conference in favor of the total disarmament of the Basque separatist group ETA, in the Spanish Basque city of Bilbao, April 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Leader of far-left Basque pro-independence party EH Bildu, Arnaldo Otegi, speaks at a conference in favor of the total disarmament of the Basque separatist group ETA, in the Spanish Basque city of Bilbao, April 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Spain’s Basque militant separatist group ETA says it has voluntarily turned all of its weapons and explosives over to civil mediators, a report says.

The BBC said on Friday that it had obtained a letter from the group in which the ETA said that “after giving up all its weaponry to Basque civil society representatives [it] now is a disarmed organization.”

But the process was not officially over as the mediators were still due to hand over the weaponry to government authorities. The letter said that “‘disarmament day’ is tomorrow (Saturday).”

“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 [in south-western France] supporting the disarmament,” said the group.

The ETA, which was set up more than 50 years ago, is considered a terrorist group by the European Union (EU). It has been seeking to negotiate its dissolution in exchange for amnesties or improved prison conditions for its roughly 350 members in Spain and France.

A file photo of masked ETA militants

Spanish Interior Minister Juan Ignacio Zoido, however, said the group would not get anything in exchange for disarming. “What Eta must do is dissolve itself and disappear.”

The group declared a ceasefire in 2011 but did not disarm. A key figure in the group’s move away from violence is believed to have been the leader of the pro-independence Basque left, Arnaldo Otegi. He has served several prison terms for his links to the ETA. Some ETA prisoners criticize him for compromising too much.

The separatist group is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in a long-running campaign of bombings and shootings for an independent Basque “state,” which would straddle northern Spain and southwestern France.

It has been severely weakened in recent years after hundreds of its members were arrested and some of its weapons were seized.