30 March 2007

Police arrested outlawed Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi

Spanish Police arrested the leader of banned Basque leftwing nationalist party Batasuna Wednesday to bring him to Madrid for a court hearing after he said he was stuck in the region because of a snowstorm.

Officers acting on a court order arrested Arnaldo Otegi at his home in the Basque town of Elgoibar, said a police official speaking on condition of anonymity because of rules that prevent her from giving her name put him in a militar plane and flied to MAdrid.

Officers were to bring Otegi to Madrid for a trial that was to have started earlier Wednesday. Arnaldo Otegi had been due to appear in a Madrid court earlier in the day to face charges of glorifying terrorism but had notified court officials that he could not make it on time due to snow blocking the road from the Basque Country.

The National Court had labeled Otegi's given reason for missing the start of the trial - a snowstorm that has snarled travel in the Basque Country - as unjustified. The Court said in a ruling that it had told the police to arrest him and deliver him for the hearing in Madrid at 6 pm (1700 GMT).

Otegi, who faces several court cases, was to stand trial this time on charges of praising terrorism, which is a crime in Spain. This case stems from remarks Otegi made at the funeral of 22-year-old Olaya Castresana, a suspected ETA member who was killed in 2001 when explosives she was preparing blew up. During the funeral, Otegi carried the coffin of Castresana and praised fallen ETA members as patriots.

After the trial walked free from Madrid's High Court on Wednesday after the state prosecutor dropped charges against him.

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