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|Arnaldo Otegi at a political rally|
|Spokesman for Batasuna|
1997 – 2003*
6 July 1958 |
Elgoibar, Basque Country, Spain
|* Batasuna declared illegal by the Spanish courts|
Arnaldo Otegi Mondragón (born 6 July 1958) is a Basque politician and spokesman for the outlawed abertzale Basque separatist party Batasuna. He was one of the key negotiators during the last unsuccessful peace talks in Loiola and Geneva, in 2006. He is one of the leading figures at Batasuna's change of strategy and ETA's end. He now is in prison accused of trying to re-organize Batasuna.
Before joining politics he had been convicted of being an ETA member and taking part in several actions, amongst which was a kidnap attempt against the Basque entrepreneur Luis Abaitúa,. In the 1990s he started his political career and he quickly gaining prominence within Basque separatism and becoming the leader of Batasuna, after the whole National Committee of Herri Batasuna was arrested. However the party and the next created ones were declared illegal in 2003 due to its relationship with ETA. In June 2007 he was convicted of "praising terrorism" and was released from prison in August the following year. In October 2009 he was arrested for attempting to put Batasuna back together, and was given a ten-year sentence.
He remains an important figure within the Basque separatist movement.
Otegi was born on July 6, 1958 in Elgoibar, (Gipuzkoa), in what later would become the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (Spain). He holds a university degree in philosophy and literature, is married and father of two children.
He has been militant of the abertzale left movement since young. In 1977 he escaped to the Northern Basque Country, after joining ETA (pm), a separatist organization seeking to establish a Marxist-Leninist Basque state. He had actively been involved in several operations and in 1987 the French police arrested him and was extradited to Spain. He was found guilty of kidnapping the Basque entrepreneur Luis Abaitua and was sentenced to six years of prison. He spent three years imprisoned and was released in 1990.
He decided to change the approach through which he would effect the change he desired. In the Basque parliamentary election, 1994 he was the seventh placed candidate in Gipuzkoa on the list of Herri Batasuna (HB), a pro-Basque independence party linked to ETA. HB won six seats at the election with Otegi initially failing to be elected but on September 27, 1995 he became an MP, substituting a party colleague.
In November 1997 the Spanish Supreme Court found several senior members of Herri Batasuna guilty of collaboration with ETA and convicted them to a seven-year sentence, and in the resulting power vacuum, Joseba Permach and Arnaldo Otegi were chosen to fill the new provisional leadership of Herri Batasuna. Since then, he has been the major spokesman of the movement, first in Herri Batasuna, later in Euskal Herritarrok and finally in Batasuna.
Otegi played a key role in the formulation of what it would be known as the Lizarra-Garazi Agreements or "Declaration of Estella-Lizarra". This agreement was signed on September 12, 1998 in Estella-Lizarra by every Basque nationalist parties in the Southern Basque Country and Ezker Batua (EB), the Basque branch of the Spanish Izquierda Unida. The only way for all this groups to work together was "the condition of every and permanent ausence of every expresion of violence of the conflict".
This agreement proposed a common position on the defence of Basque self-determination. In the chapter "Keys for resolutions" it sais:
"The resolutive negotiation will not involve specific enforcements, will respect the plurality of the Basque society, will place every project in equal terms, will deepen democracy in the sense of placing in the citizens of the Basque Country the last word on the shaping their future and their decision will be respected by the implicated Estates. The Basque Country shall have the word and the decision."
ETA declared an "indefinied ceasefire" in four days, the second in the history of the organization. The conservative Spanish president José María Aznar admitted having authorized direct contacts with ETA and he publicly called ETA "Movimiento Vasco de Liberación", leaving aside the mainly used "terrorist association". He moved 135 Basque prisoners to prisons in the Basque Country, one of the main claims ETA has made since the beginning of the dispersion prison policy. Nevertheless, the Spanish police continued arresting people and the negotiations never got very far.
Meanwhile, in the Basque parliamentary election, 1998, Arnaldo Otegi was candidate for the party Euskal Herritarrok, which had replaced Herri Batasuna, representing the region of Gipuzkoa. The Lizarra-Garazi agreements helped give Euskal Herritarrok their best results in ten years, and they became the third-largest political party in Basque Country and the adjacent region of Navarre. This popularity in terms of votes was reversed as in January 2000 ETA unilaterally broke the cease-fire and killed Pedro Antonio Blanco. ETA blamed PNV for not fulfilling the declaration, and PNV blamed ETA.
In August 2000, a senior Basque court accused him of "glorifying terrorism", after allegedly he had shouted "Gora Euskadi ta Askatasuna!" in France. However, the Spanish Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo) closed the case, stating that crimes such as "glorifying terrorism" could not be pursued if committed abroad. This precedent was then called forth by the Audiencia Nacional concerning the Carmelo Soria case.
In May 2005 Arnaldo Otegi was put on trial for belonging to ETA, but was released after posting a bail for €400,000. He was arrested again the next year, only three days after ETA called off its "ceasefire". Shortly after, a Spanish Supreme Court ruling confirmed the 15-month prison sentence against Otegi for "glorifying terrorism",  from 2003. He appealed the sentence, but a panel of judges unanimously rejected the appeal. In November 2005, Otegi was sentenced to a year in prison, on charges of slander against King Juan Carlos during a 2003 news conference. Otegi had then stated that the King was the "chief of the Spanish army, that's to say, the person responsible for the torturers, who favour torture and impose his monarchic regime on our people through torture and violence".
On April 27, 2006 he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for glorifying terrorism in a speech he gave in 2003 in commemoration of the killing of a prominent ETA member 25 years ago. He started serving the sentence on June 8, 2007  and was then released from prison in August 2008.
On October 16, 2009, Otegi, was arrested for his involvement in attempting to reform Batasuna during a secret meeting, along with other Basque politicians and activists such as Rafael Díez Usabiaga, despite the meeting leading to an ETA ceasefire. Whilst awaiting sentence he started a hunger strike, on January 27, 2010, but stopped it soon after. In March 2010 the Spanish court sentenced Otegi to two years in jail for "glorifying terrorism" in a speech he gave in 2005 in which he compared a jailed ETA member to Nelson Mandela. He was also barred from holding public office for sixteen years.
In September 2010 Otegi again faced trial for glorifying terrorism, this time at a November 2004 rally held in the Anoeta Velodrome in San Sebastian. He was found not guilty by the Spanish National Audience, who ruled that Otegi did not praise ETA, but was defending "peaceful coexistence and the need for a process of dialogue and negotiation in order to resolve the conflict in a non-violent and democratic way". Otegi was found guilty of the initial charge, the reformation of Batasuna, in September 2011, and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.
- John Carlin Interviews Arnaldo Otegi
- "The independentist strategy is incompatible with armed violence"
- Judicial auto in Spanish (PDF)
- Detenidos los presuntos secuestradores de Luis Abaitua
- Goodman, Al (17 March 2003). "Basque independence party banned". CNN. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- Goodman, Al (June 8, 2007). "Spain arrests ETA-linked lawmaker". CNN. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- Judicial auto in Spanish (PDF)
- "Engaging ETA". Irish Times. September 19, 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
- Murua, Imanol (2010). Loiolako Hegiak. Elkar. p. 42. ISBN 978-84-9783-824-5.
- Acuerdo de Lizarra, Especial El Mundo, El Mundo(Spanish)
- ETA declara una tregua indefinida, El Mundo(Spanish)
- Aznar confirma la reunión entre el Gobierno y ETA hace tres semanas (7th June, 1999), El Mundo(Spanish)
- Video on YouTube: Aznar contactos con ETA, YouTube(Spanish)
- El Gobierno de Aznar acercó a 135 presos de ETA antes del diálogo, El País(Spanish)
- El Supremo no actuará contra Otegi porque vitoreó a ETA fuera de España, El País, 28 May 2002 (Spanish)
- "Terror Case Thrown Out". The New York Times. 28 May 2002. Retrieved 2007-10-28.
- Archivan el caso del asesinato de Carmelo Soria en Chile por el precedente de Otegi, El País, 31 May 2002 (Spanish)
- Basque leader arrested in Spain, BBC News, 8 June 2007 (English)
- Basque convicted for king insult, BBC News, 4 November 2005 (English)
- "Otegi and Diez to be tried for 'Bateragune case'". EITB. 27 June 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- "Spain jails Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi". BBC News. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- "Arnaldo Otegi found not guilty of glorifying ETA at Anoeta rally". EITB. 12 September 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
- Arnaldo Otegi's "Mañana Euskal Herria" book about the situation of Basque Country
- web page calling for Otegi's release from prison
- Dos años de cárcel para Otegi por enaltecer a ETA, Publico.es, 02/03/2010