Supporters of Eta prisoners arrested

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The Independent Online

Spanish police arrested 13 organisers of prisoners' support committees yesterday suspected of acting as a front for Eta Basque separatists.

The 13, picked up in pre-dawn raids throughout the Basque region and in neighbouring Navarra, are accused of belonging to or co-operating with a terrorist organisation. The police action, ordered by the National Court Judge Baltasar Garzon, is the latest step in the Spanish authorities' strategy of widening their operations against Eta to include its broader support network.

Such action breaks new ground. The "Pro-Amnesty Committees" have existed since 1979 and operate legally. They campaign for the return to the Basque country of hundreds of Eta prisoners dispersed in jails throughout Spain. But Judge Garzon claims to have proof that the groups are linked financially to Eta armed activists.

The judge ordered 22 bank accounts to be blocked, including those said to receive subsidies from the Basque regional government.

A spokesman for the committees condemned the police action as politically motivated.He said the organisation aimed only to "campaign for respect for the rights that all prisoners should have".