(AP) Police shut down a Basque-language newspaper on Thursday and arrested its editor-in-chief and 10 other executives on suspicion of aiding the armed separatist group ETA.
Hundreds of Civil Guard police wearing ski masks and bulletproof vests fanned out across the Basque region and neighboring Navarra to search and then board up the offices of the daily Egunkaria. They seized documents and computer equipment.
The newspaper has a circulation of about 15,000 and is Spain’s only newspaper published exclusively in the Basque language.
Justice Minister Jose Maria Michavila told national radio the newspaper was a communications tool for ETA. When police arrest ETA commando groups, the pages of Egunkaria alert other operatives, Michavila said. He declined to say how.
The detainees included the paper’s editor-in-chief, Marcelo Otamendi, who interviewed members of ETA in 2001, and executives of the company that publishes the daily, Egunkaria S.A.
The paper’s Web site (Egunkaria.com) was not working Thursday morning. The only bureau not shut down was one across the border in Bayonne in the French Basque country.
Egunkaria is the Basque word for newspaper.
The headquarters of the newspaper is in Andaoin, the town where the last killing blamed on ETA took place. The police chief there was shot and killed on Feb. 8.
Thursday’s raids were the third operation in three days targeting people alleged to be close to ETA.
On Tuesday police arrested 10 people accused of taking part in street violence that the government says is orchestrated by ETA, and on Wednesday 14 alleged ETA collaborators were arrested.
Police described Thursday’s closure as temporary. Police shut down another Basque-language paper, Egin, in 1998. It was also accused of aiding ETA, and has never reopened although no one at the paper has been tried.
ETA, which stands for Basque Homeland and Freedom, has killed more than 800 people since it began attacks in 1968. Its stated goal is to carve out an independent Basque country in land straddling northern Spain and southwestern France.