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Six Basque separatist leaders arrested

February 18, 1997

BILBAO, Spain (AP) _ Six people allegedly connected to an armed Basque separatist group were arrested Tuesday for collaborating with terrorists.

The Supreme Court this month summoned all 25 executive members of the Herri Batasuna political coalition to Madrid for questioning. The group allegedly had used a video made by the guerrilla group ETA during last year’s general election campaign.

Herri Batasuna, which refuses to recognize Madrid’s authority or courts, has ignored the summons.

In the past two weeks, police have arrested 16 of the group’s board members for failing to answer accusations linking them to ETA, believed responsible for nearly 800 deaths since it took up arms in 1968.

Aware they were to be arrested, the six Herri Batasuna leaders gathered Tuesday with supporters in front of the conservative Basque Nationalist Party offices in the northern city of Bilbao.

The Basque Nationalist Party, which heads the region’s parliament and favors an independent Basque country, repeatedly has called for ETA to give up its armed guerrilla campaign.

Two more Herri Batasuna leaders were expected to be arrested Wednesday. One executive board member, Eugenio Aranburu, committed suicide on Feb. 10, hours before he was to be detained.

The arrests come at a time of rising tension in Spain’s three Basque provinces. On Monday, a police officer was killed by a bomb that exploded under his car in Bilbao, the sixth killing blamed on ETA this year.

Over the weekend, police shot and injured two people during a Bilbao demonstration by about 10,000 ETA supporters. Another two were wounded by rubber bullets, also fired by police. Officers opened fire after being cornered and provoked by demonstrators, a police statement said.

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