Basque separatist group ETA apologizes for ‘harm’ it caused

A car, in which a bomb planted by the Basque separatist group ETA exploded, is towed by police in Madrid in this 2005 photo. Police were able to evacuate the area before the bomb, which consisted of explosives stuffed inside two backpacks and placed inside a car believed to have been stolen a day earlier, went off. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2018

Basque separatist group ETA apologizes for ‘harm’ it caused

  • At least 829 people were killed before the group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011
  • Spain’s 2.2-million-strong Basque region is now gearing up for the dissolution of the group created in 1959

MADRID: The Basque separatist group ETA apologized Friday for the “pain” and “harm” it caused during its decades-long campaign of violence and appealed to its victims for forgiveness.
“We have caused a lot of pain, and irreparable harm. We want to show our respect to the dead, to the wounded and to the victims of the actions of ETA ... We sincerely regret it,” it said in a statement released in the Basque newspaper Gara.
The statement came just days before ETA is expected to announce its dissolution.
“We know that, forced by the necessities of all types of armed struggle, our actions have harmed citizens who were not responsible. We have also caused serious wrongs which are irreparable. We ask forgiveness to those people and their families,” it said.
The government in Madrid said the apology was the result of “the strength of the rule of law that has defeated ETA with the weapons of democracy.”
“ETA should have asked for forgiveness a long time ago,” it said in a statement.
ETA waged a nearly four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to establish an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.
At least 829 people were killed before the group announced a permanent ceasefire in 2011.
Last year it went a step further and began laying down its arms.
In its statement to Gara, its traditional mouthpiece, ETA said it was not alone in being responsible for the violence in the Basque Country.
“Suffering existed before the birth of ETA and continued after it ceased its armed struggle,” it said.
Without specifically mentioning the Madrid government, it called for “all to recognize their responsibilities and wrong caused” and to open the way to reconciliation.
“ETA, the national Basque socialist revolutionary liberation organization, wants to acknowledge by this declaration the harm caused by its armed course, and demonstrate its commitment to definitively overcoming the consequences of the conflict and avoiding a repetition.”
The group has been severely weakened in recent years after police arrested hundreds of its members, including its leaders, and seized several of its weapons stashes.
Spain’s 2.2-million-strong Basque region is now gearing up for the dissolution of the group created in 1959 at the height of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship.
On Thursday, an international mediator, Alberto Spektorowski, said that “failing a last-minute surprise” ETA would announce its dissolution on May 5 or 6.
“The declaration that ETA no longer exists will be very clear,” the Israeli academic, a member of the International Contact Group, told Basque radio EITB.
“I cannot say what words they will use but no one will be left in any doubt,” he said, adding that the announcement would be made across the border, in the French Basque region.


Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

Updated 31 min 22 sec ago

Patten says China pursuing ‘Orwellian’ agenda in Hong Kong

  • Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents
  • China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city

BEIJING: The last British governor of Hong Kong criticized the Chinese government on Friday over proposed national security legislation, calling it part of an “Orwellian” drive to eliminate opposition in violation of the agreement on handing the territory over to Beijing.
Chris Patten defended London’s announcement that it would grant residency and a path to citizenship for nearly 3 million Hong Kong residents if Beijing goes through with passage of the legislation.
The law is seen as potentially imposing severe restrictions on freedom of speech and opposition political activity in the former British colony that was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997. China has denounced the offer of citizenship as a violation of its sovereignty.
“If they’ve broken the (Sino-British) Joint Declaration, if they’ve thrown it overboard, how can they then use the joint declaration as though it stops us doing something that’s a sovereign right of ours?” said Patten, now chancellor of the University of Oxford, in an online talk with reporters.
The declaration is a bilateral treaty signed as part of the handover process. China has essentially declared it null and void, while Britain says Beijing is reneging on its commitments made in the document that was supposed to be remain in effect until 2047.
China shocked many of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people when it announced earlier this month that it will enact a national security law for the city, which was promised a high level of autonomy outside of foreign and defense affairs.
An earlier push to pass security legislation was shelved after massive Hong Kong street protests against it in 2003. However, Beijing appeared to lose patience after months of sometimes violent anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year that China said was an attempt to split the territory off from the rest of the country.
Patten said the security legislation is unnecessary because Hong Kong’s legal code already includes provisions to combat terrorism, financial crimes and other threats to security.
“What Beijing wants is something which deals with those rather worrying Orwellian crimes like sedition, whatever that may be,” Patten said.
China may also be seeking grounds to disqualify opposition candidates from running in September’s election for the local legislature by accusing them of being disloyal, he said.
Beijing has ignored promises that Hong Kong could democratize of its own accord after the handover, Patten said. The US should unite with other democratic countries to oppose underhanded tactics by Beijing, he said.
“It’s the Chinese Communist Party which attacks us, which hectors, which bullies, which tells companies which have roots in our countries, that unless they do what China wants, they won’t get any business in China,” Patten said. “That’s the way the Mafia behave, and the rest of the world shouldn’t put up with it, because if we do, liberal democracies are going to be screwed.”