MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish government will give nothing in exchange for disarmament of the Basque militant separatist group ETA, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday.
The group, which has killed more than 800 people over several decades and declared a permanent ceasefire six years ago, has been severely weakened in recent years after hundreds of its members were arrested and police seized several weapons stashes.
On Friday, France’s Le Monde reported that ETA were set to announce plans to disarm and have scheduled a full handover of weapons for April 8 — several Basque political leaders said this was credible.
Basque independence sympathizers have lobbied for years for imprisoned ETA operatives to be moved to prisons closer to the Basque Country.
“ETA has made the umpteenth announcement and says it will disarm ... it won’t be in exchange for anything,” Rajoy said during a meeting of his People’s Party in the Basque Country.
The group has attempted to broker deals in exchange for disarmament on several occasions but the Spanish and French governments have refused to work with them, insisting only that they hand over their arsenal.
According to Etxerat, an association which represents families and associates of the group, at the end of 2015 there were 403 people detained in 74 prisons throughout Spain.
Reporting by Andres Gonzalez; writing by Paul Day; editing by Stephen Powell