Basque separatist leader faces possible jail

Prosecutors are expected to ask a judge Monday to jail the leader of the banned Basque separatist party Batasuna for allegedly inciting violence during a strike and violating bail terms in a separate case.

Judge Fernando Grande-Marlaska summoned Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi to answer questions regarding violence during the one-day strike called by the party on Thursday. He is to appear at the National Court on Monday afternoon.

Otegi is on Ђ 400,000 (US$480,000) bail since being arrested in May and charged with being a leader of the violent separatist group ETA.

On Friday, Attorney General Candido Conde-Pompido said that if it was proved that Otegi was behind the violence, it would represent a violation of the terms of his parole and could result his being jailed pending trial. He said the prosecution would recommend imprisonment.

The strike was called to protest the recent deaths in jail of two ETA members. The government says one case was a suicide, the other a heart attack.

ETA has been blamed for more than 800 deaths since the late 1960s in its struggle to create an independent Basque homeland. Its last fatal attack was in May 2003, when a car bombing killed two policemen.

The government has said it is optimistic that ETA is close to declaring a cease-fire, although the group has kept up a campaign of small bombings, causing damage but few injuries.

Otegi warned that if he is sent to jail, prospects for peace in the region would be "seriously" affected. His party, however, insisted it would not stop the process.

Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein party president Gerry Adams voiced concern this weekend about Otegi's possible jailing, called for such threats to be lifted and urging the Spanish government to work toward a genuine peace process, reports the AP.

I.L.