Court bans hundreds of Basque candidates

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The Independent Online

Nearly 1,500 Basque nationalists were banned yesterday from standing in local elections on 25 May by Spain's highest court, which said they were covert members of the outlawed Batasuna party.

Nearly 1,500 Basque nationalists were banned yesterday from standing in local elections on 25 May by Spain's highest court, which said they were covert members of the outlawed Batasuna party.

A hundred Batasuna sympathisers occupied Bilbao town hall, chaining themselves to banisters. Shouting "you will not silence us. Long live a free Basque country," they were dislodged by police in riot gear. Arnaldo Otegi, a former leader of Batasuna, said "left-wing nationalists" would campaign anyway, using their own ballot papers.

When the Supreme Court banned Batasuna in March on the basis that it was a front for the armed separatists of Eta, members of the party elected to town councils throughout the Basque country decided to stand for re-election under a different name. But yesterday's ruling by the Constitutional Court, which upholds another ruling last week by the Supreme Court, means those linked to Batasuna are banned, whatever they call themselves.

For the first time since the return to democracy after Franco's death in 1975, Basques favouring independence will have no one to vote for.

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