The President of a Spanish terror victims’ group says the disarmament of ETA has turned into a propaganda event – “as if victims should be grateful because they have decided to stop killing us”.
Consuelo Ordóñez, president of COVITE, was speaking to the News Letter after the Basque terror group ETA gave French authorities a list of eight caches of weapons, ammunition, and explosives in a crucial move towards disarmament on Friday.
The terror group killed over 820 people in the past 40 years in its failed bid to secure an independent state for Basque people; an ethnic group living in north-east Spain, and south-west France.
Ms Ordóñez said: “Spanish society now faces a great challenge; writing the history of terrorism as ETA and its political arm are trying to manipulate their criminal background.
“An example of it is the disarmament of ETA, that they have turned into a propaganda event, as if victims should be grateful because they have decided to stop killing us.
“To face to this situation, a group of victims and academics from the Basque Country presented in San Sebastian yesterday [April 6] a ‘Manifesto for an ending of ETA without impunity’ that has been signed by more than 13.000 people in just three days.”
A great part of Spanish society demands that “red lines” now be put to ETA about the future, she said.
“What we asked for in this manifesto is to finish with the ‘other arsenal’ of ETA: its political totalitarian project, the impunity, the manipulation of history, the hate speech and the moral extortion of the victims.”
In contrast to Northern Ireland, she said that in Spanish legislation “the definition of victim is clear and it excludes terrorists for any kind of compensation”.
Since the disarmament, the Spanish government called on the rebels to “ask forgiveness from its victims and disappear”.
French interior minister Matthias Fekl said a police operation was under way on Saturday to find and search the arms caches listed in documents handed over. “It’s a great step, an unquestionably important day,” he said.
Inactive for more than five years, ETA had said it would hand over its arms, a historic step following a 43-year violent campaign that claimed 829 lives, mostly in Spain.
Disarmament is the second-to-last step demanded by France and Spain, which want ETA to formally disband.
Spain “will not make any evaluation of the handing over of weapons today by ETA until they have been analysed by French authorities and justice,” interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said.
“The government will not alter its position: terrorists cannot hope to receive any special treatment from the government nor immunity for their crimes,” the minister said.
Representatives of a group called the ‘Peace Artisans’, acting as mediators in the disarmament process, said ETA surrendered 120 firearms and three tons of explosives and ammunition.
Peace Artisans were deployed at each location until French authorities take possession of the weapons.
Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets of Bayonne, south-west France, to celebrate the peace.
Many sang slogans calling for convicted ETA members to complete their sentences in their homelands.
Many Basque separatists have pushed for convicted members to serve their time closer to their homes, not scattered around Spain and France.
The Spanish and French governments have refused.
Rev Harold Good, a Methodist minister who helped in overseeing the Northern Ireland peace process, called on authorities to “bring the prisoners home, to their families ... above all, those who are frail by sickness and by age”.
The president of the Basque Country’s regional government in Spain called the disarmament an “important step with historical value”.
“It certifies that there should have never been any ETA victim,” Inigo Urkullu said.
“All the victims are part of this success.”
The president of the Victims of Terrorism Foundation, Maria del Mar Blanco, whose brother was kidnapped and killed by ETA in 1997, called for “nobody to rewrite history”.
“The bad guys are still the bad guys. The good guys – we, the victims of terrorism – are still the good ones,” he told Spanish national television.
Javier Maroto of Spain’s ruling Party Popular said the disarmament is “a step forward, but it’s not enough”.
The pro-independence leader of Sortu, a Basque separatist party linked to ETA, said “the armed struggle is over, but the fight for the same ends goes on”.
“As of tomorrow, we need to keep working on the issues of the prisoners, the victims and the demilitarisation of the country,” Arnaldo Otegi said.
A handful of ETA members are still on the run.
Hundreds of killings remain unsolved and the arms caches could help lead authorities to perpetrators.
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