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Ending ETA: Defeat or a Peace Process?

Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014

In the past month, events in the long, drawn-out process toward the dissolution of ETA, the violent Basque separatist organization, have taken a surprising turn. On Dec. 28, ETA’s prisoners—more than 500 of whom are dispersed across prisons in Spain and France, vastly outnumbering the few dozen militants who remain in hiding—issued a statement in which they distanced themselves from armed struggle and recognized the suffering and harm inflicted by decades of violence. They also pledged to pursue their release from prison through the Spanish legal system, abandoning their old demand for amnesty.

A week later came the turn of 63 prisoners recently released in compliance with a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. The 63, who represented the hardest of ETA’s hard men and women, had served an average of 25 years in prison each for more than 300 of ETA’s 830 assassinations. Like their imprisoned comrades, they fully committed themselves to the pursuit of their goals by democratic means and assumed “full responsibility” for what they termed “the consequences of the conflict.” ...

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