Basque arrest threatens Spain's fragile unity over terrorism

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A leading radical Basque nationalist, Jon Idigoras, was arrested yesterday for disobeying a court order to appear for questioning about an election video that endorses the banned separatist group ETA. The decision threatens to blow apart a fragile unity on anti-terrorism agreed among the main parties.

Mr Idigoras, a leader of the pro-ETA party Herri Batasuna (HB) was brought to the capital to appear before Judge Baltazar Garzon. Mr Idigoras, 60, was an MP in Madrid in the last three legislatures until parliament was dissolved before elections due on 3 March. He refused to take his seat in protest at what he called "oppression by the Spanish state of the Basque people".

The detention has heightened tension after the two recent ETA political assassinations which have dominated the election campaign. The decision to move against Mr Idigoras was greeted with dismay by moderate Basque nationalists who described it as the best way of furthering the separatists' interests. A leader of the conservative Basque Nationalist Party said that Judge Garzon had "unwittingly" acted as HB's most effective election agent. By contrast, a veteran leader of the conservative Popular Party, Manuel Fraga, welcomed the decision as an obvious step.

HB condemned the detention as an act of revenge. The party claims to be separate from ETA while sharing the group's aims of independence from Spain. Last week, HB circulated a video showing hooded gunmen seated beneath an ETA flag and endorsing ETA plans for peace in the Basque country.

n The Hague (Reuter) - Seven EU countries averted a crisis hanging over the Schengen treaty on a border-free zone yesterday, agreeing to close a loophole which lets guerrilla suspects wanted in one country to walk free in another.