The Basque separatist organisation ETA announced in a « final declaration » on Thursday that it is to be dissolved and cease all political activity.
In the statement, which was read out by the organisation’s leader Josu Ternera in an audio recording published on the Basque newspaper Gara, ETA said it made the decision “so that the process for freedom and peace can continue in other ways. This is the logical consequence of the decision adopted in 2011 to abandon the armed struggle.”
Founded under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, ETA has killed at least 829 people in a campaign of assassinations and bombings in Spain and France, in the name of the independence of « Euskal Herria », the Spanish Basque Country and French Navarre.
Decimated by the arrests of its leaders and rejected by the population, the group classified as a terrorist organisation by the European Union renounced violence in 2011 and handed over its weapons last year.
The Spanish government has so far refused any compensation for the dissolution of ETA.
“No matter what Eta does, there is no room for impunity for its crimes, » Mr Rajoy said in a speech in northern Spain on Thursday.
« Eta can announce its disappearance but its crimes do not disappear nor do the efforts to pursue and punish them. »
The vast majority of Basques reject violence, but a minority still demand independence. The separatist coalition EH Bildu, the second largest party in the Basque Parliament, won 21 percent of the vote in the 2016 regional elections.
Many ETA victims are not ready to forgive the bloodshed during the years of violence. In a press conference in San Sebastián, the Basque city that has seen the most attacks, the Collective of Victims of Terrorism (Covite) demanded that ETA condemns terror and stops making public homage to its activists when they are released from prison.
The announcement of the dissolution was to be followed on Friday by an « international conference » in Cambo-les-Bains, in the French Basque Country, where the former leader of Ireland’s Sinn Fein party Gerry Adams and representatives of several Spanish parties will be in attendance.