Basque separatists Eta ‘truly sorry’ for victims of campaign of terror
The Basque militant group Eta yesterday/Fri apologised to the victims of its five-decade campaign of terror in which more than 800 people were killed.
“We are truly sorry”, the organisation said in a statement to relatives of those killed, injured, kidnapped, and people who have been forced to flee Spain’s Basque Country region before the organisation declared an end to violence in 2011.
“Eta recognises the direct responsibility it has for that pain, and wishes to declare that none of all this should ever have happened, or not over such a long period of time”, the statement published in the Basque newspaper Gara read.
But reaction to the apology across Spain has been mixed. The Spanish government said it was “good that the terrorist group asks its victims for forgiveness, because the victims, their memory and dignity have been decisive in Eta’s defeat”.
The president of the Foundation of Terrorism Victims, Mari Mar Blanco, said: “This apology is not good enough for me”. It is late in coming and by no means meets our expectations.”
The president of the Basque region, Iñigo Urkullu, criticized what he saw as an unequal treatment of different types of Eta victim in the terrorist organisation’s statement, offering “respect” for those killed in targeted attacks and a full apology to those “who had no direct participation in the conflict”.
In the statement, Eta said it was aware of the pain it has caused all of its victims.
“We wish none of this had happened. If only freedom and peace had laid down roots a long time ago in Euskal Herria,” the organisation said, referring to the name independence supporters give to the greater Basque region that includes part of southwestern France as well as the Spanish regions of the Basque Country and Navarra.
Eta began its campaign of violence in the 1960s, when General Franco’s regime held the whole of Spain in a vice of repression. After the dictator’s death in 1975 and the transition to democracy, Eta continued killing, despite the large degree of autonomy awarded to the Basque Country region and support for Basque culture and language.
The vast majority of Eta’s fatal victims, numbered at 829 by Spain’s interior ministry, were killed after 1975.
Attacks by ETA and retaliation by Spanish state death squads traumatised Spain, peaking in the 1980s and 1990s.
ETA was weakened in recent years by the arrests of its senior leaders. After formally renouncing violence in 2011, ETA called for dialogue with the authorities.
Spain and France refused any contact with the group, insisting it disband unconditionally. It handed over its arms last year.
The statement does not refer to speculation that Eta is set to announce its dissolution as an organisation early in May, although commentators say the timing of the apology is a indication that the group is ready to do so.