Basque separatist leader Otegi due back in court

Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi was due in court on Monday to face trial on charges of praising terrorism, just three days after he was released on bail in a separate case.

Otegi, head of the Batasuna party, which is outlawed for its links to the armed group ETA, is seen as a possible key figure in any peace process following ETA's cease-fire announcement.

He had been jailed for over a week pending payment of bail after he allegedly incited violence during a general strike last month in the Basque region. A judge ruled that he had violated bail terms in yet another case.

In the latest appearance, state prosecutors are seeking a jail term of 15 months for Otegi for allegedly praising terrorism, a crime in Spain, at a rally in 2003 in memory of a late ETA member.

On Sunday, Otegi was one of thousands who took part in a march through the Basque city of San Sebastian to protest a court ruling that barred Batasuna from holding a convention to present a new leadership.

ETA announced its permanent cease-fire March 22, raising hopes for an end to separatist violence that has claimed more than 800 lives since the late 1960s. Its last fatal attack was in May 2003, when a car bombing killed two policemen. Since the cease-fire announcement, there have been no reports of attacks or militant street violence.

Otegi served three years in prison starting in 1989 for his role in an ETA kidnapping.

Spain's Supreme Court also sentenced Otegi to a year in prison on Nov. 4 for slandering King Juan Carlos in 2003 by saying he was in charge of torturers. Sentences under two years in Spain are suspended, reports the AP.

I.L.