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Sortu decision expected by March 11th

Source: EFE - Tue 22th Feb 2011

Spain's public prosecution service is expected to request that the Supreme Court ban Sortu, the new Basque nationalist left-wing party that was launched earlier this month, which many skeptics have branded as a repackaged version of the banned party, Batasuna.

Minister of Justice Francisco Caamaño yesterday said that if, after considering police reports, prosecutors believe that the new party is successor of the banned part Batasuna, they will request that the new party be banned.

On Friday the Attorney General referred to Sortu as being a repackaged version of Batasuna, a party banned in 2003 due to it being part of ETA. It is now up to a decision by the Supreme Court to decide if the party can take part in local elections.

The attorney general will make a decision by March 11, but it is expcted that the court will not have enough time to arrive at a ruling before the election date of May 22, which will prevent them from taking part.

Sortu party members insist it rejects ETA's violence and therefore warrants legal status and the right to submit candidates in the coming election. If Sortu is given permission to run it would give the new Basque nationalist left-wing politicians access to local and regional government posts and the financial benefits that come with them.

Spain's Minister for the Interior, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, said that the government was prepared to take steps to stop Batasuna candidates from joining other Basque parties should if the court decides to ban Sortu.

The launch of the new party earlier this month followed the conclusion of numerous meeting between ETA - linked Basque parties that collectively decided that violence was no longer a justifiable means in a bid for independence. The Spanish government has repeatedly called for Batasuna and its members to reject ETA and condemn violence in order to regain legal status and take part in Basque politics.

declared a cease-fire last year and took a further step last month by calling it permanent, although it has called 11 truces throughout its 40-year history. The most recent "permanent" cease-fire was in 2006, but it ended with a massive car bomb at a car parking garage in Madrid's international airport after attempted negotiations with the government were perceived by ETA to be going nowhere.

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