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At the High Court

Otegi says he is 'guilty only of seeking a peaceful solution'



Otegi declared on Monday that "ETA believes strength is garnered by continuing the armed struggle, and we don't," adding that ETA's return would be "suicide" for the nationalist left.

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Former Batasuna spokesman, Arnaldo Otegi, said on Monday that the only objective of the eight people currently standing trial - accused of attempting to reform Batasuna through Bateragune - was to steer the nationalist left away from a strategy "that combined armed violence with political struggle" towards one based on peace and democracy.

"If that''s a crime, I am guilty and we are all guilty; if it isn''t a crime, obviously we are innocent," said Otegi, in his opening statement at the court where he and another seven people are being tried. Unlike the former Secretary General of nationalist trade union LAB, Rafael Díez Usabiaga, and the ex-leader of Haika, Arkaitz Rodríguez, Otegi would not refuse to testify.

"I have no intention whatsoever of denying my political activity; not mine nor that of my (fellow defendants). In that regard, I will endorse (my political activity) because I know that effectively the work we were undertaking was fundamentally intended to seek out a specific goal, which was a change of strategy within the Basque nationalist leftwing," said Otegi in his opening statement.

The former Batasuna leader went on to say that if ETA were to resume its violent struggle, it would be "political suicide" for the nationalist left because the combined forces which have gone into creating a pro-independence group, such as Bildu (founded on seeking peaceful and democratic solutions), would end up losing their legitimacy.

The Prosecution believes Otegi and the other seven defendants formed part of a "permanent commission" (Bateragune) responsible for adapting the existing political strategy of the nationalist left, but under orders and direction from ETA.

The former Batasuna spokesman maintains that the group formed by the eight people on trial, which he occasionally referred to ironically as "the Otegi group", did "not form part of ETA''s plans" because precisely what it proposed was a change in strategy that would "irreversibly" set aside the use of violence.

The Prosecution is requesting a ten-year prison sentence for the eight defendants, on the grounds that they were attempting to reform an outlawed political group. The association Voices against Terrorism, representing the ''vox populi'', raises that petition to fourteen years.


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