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EU forces Spain to compensate Basque leader

Wed 16th Mar 2011

The EU court of human rights has ruled that Spain must compensate Basque seperatist leader, Arnaldo Ortegi, for sentencing him to a period in jail for the crime of insulting King Juan Carlos.

Yesterday the court ruled that the Spanish government must compensate Mr Ortegi 23,000 for breaching his right to freedom of expression after he accused the Spanish monarch of protecting police torturers.

The offending comments were made after police raided and closed down the Basque newspaper, Egunkaria, in February 2003. The editor, Martxelo Otamendi, and other executives claimed at the time that they had been tortured. Following a visit to the Basque country by King Juan Carlos shortly after the event, Mr Otegi commented that as supreme head of the civil guard, the monarch was effectively in command of those who had tortured Egunkaria staff.

He openly stated that the King "protects torture and imposes his monarchical regime on our people through torture and violence".

As a result of these comments being made in Spain's national press, a court eventually found him guilty of insulting the king, and in 2006 he was awarded a suspended jail sentance of 12 months.

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