ETA has been struck a massive blow. The police started rounding up 45 members of the ETA-front organization Ekin, who will apparently be found guilty of membership in ETA. 28 of them have already been arrested. Until now they have been free on bail. Their trial has lasted for more than a year, and the verdicts are scheduled to be released sometime before December 10.
Of course, we all expected the verdict to be guilty--in Spain, when they get to the point of actually trying somebody, they've generally got a very strong case against him. The judge has ordered their arrest on the ground they are flight risks, because they are looking at some seriously long sentences, between 4 and 19 years. Since 52 persons were put on trial, and there are warrants out for 45, seven were either acquitted or received suspended sentences.
Ekin, according to La Vanguardia, is the "social, political, international, economic, and media network of the ETA terrorist organization." Among those already under arrest are former Herri Batasuna leaders José Luis Elkoro and Francisco Murga, and ETA mouthpiece lawyer Txema Matanzas. They are going to be convicted on charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, defrauding Social Security and the taxman, and forgery. Here is the complete list of those tried.
What happened the last time that a bunch of ETA collaborators was sent to jail, when they rounded up the leaders of Segi, the youth brigade, was that they didn't surrender to the cops but went into hiding for a week. Then they held a mass ceremonial rally and turned themselves in to the law in a group, making great street theater and firing up all their supporters. Looks like the judge doesn't want to give this lot the chance to pull a stunt like that.
This means two important things. First, the judiciary has finally decided that so-called civilians who assist ETA are just as guilty as the thugs who pull the trigger. Second, one common hypothesis for an eventual deal cut with ETA--I would prefer no deals, just crush them, they're terrorists--is that ETA would turn over its arms in exchange for an amnesty for its members who didn't personally commit violent crimes. If this is the plan, then the government now has a lot more bargaining chips.