Arnaldo Otegi

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Arnaldo Otegi
Arnaldo Otegi in April 2016
Secretary General of Sortu
In office
9 February 2011 – 17 June 2017
Preceded byPosition created
Succeeded byArkaitz Rodríguez
Member of the Basque Parliament
In office
21 September 1995 – 16 June 2005
Secretary General of EH Bildu
Assumed office
17 June 2017
Personal details
Born (1958-07-06) 6 July 1958 (age 65)
Elgoibar, Spain
Political partySortu (2011–present)
EH Bildu (2012–present)
Other political
Herri Batasuna (1994–1998)
Euskal Herritarrok (1998–2001)
Batasuna (2001–2003)
SpouseJulia Arregi Gorrotxategi
ResidenceBasque Country

Arnaldo Otegi Mondragón (born 6 July 1958) is a Basque politician who is currently General Secretary of Basque nationalist party EH Bildu. He was member of the Basque Parliament for both Herri Batasuna and Euskal Herritarrok. He was a convicted member of the banned armed separatist group[1][2] organization ETA in his early years.[3] He was one of the key negotiators during the unsuccessful peace talks in Loiola and Geneva, in 2006.[4]

In the 1990s he started his political career and quickly gained prominence within the Basque separatist movement, becoming the leader of Herri Batasuna. During the period, he participated in the attempts at finding a political and negotiated solution for the Basque conflict that laid out the grounds for the Lizarra-Garazi Agreements and ETA's truce in 1998.[5] He headed the party Batasuna, declared illegal in 2003 due to its relationship with ETA,[6] but continued talks with the Socialist Jesus Egiguren to reach a compromise leading to peace.[5]

In June 2007 he was convicted of "praising terrorism",[7][8] imprisoned, and then 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.[9] In May 2012 his sentence was reduced to 6½ years by the Supreme Court of Spain as they considered him a member, but not a leader of ETA.[10][11] Otegi was released from prison on 1 March 2016, with the European Court of Humans Rights ruling against Spain for the Spanish National Court's breach of the defendant's right to have an impartial trial, for which he had spent 6 years in prison.[12]

He was chosen as candidate for the post of Lehendakari by EH Bildu for the Basque parliamentary election of 2016 but the electoral committee invalidated his candidacy due to his penal disqualification.[13]


Otegi was born on 6 July 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 a father of two children.

He was a militant of the abertzale left movement from a young age.[14] In 1977 he fled to the French Basque Country, after the Spanish authorities discovered his membership of ETA (pm).[14] In 1987 the French police arrested him, before allowing him to be extradited to Spain. He was found guilty of taking part in the kidnapping of the Basque businessman Luis Abaitua and was sentenced to six years in prison.[15] He spent three years imprisoned and was released in 1990.[14]

On leaving prison, he decided to change how he would seek Basque independence and so entered politics. In the Basque parliamentary election in 1994 he was the seventh placed candidate on the party list of Herri Batasuna (HB) for Gipuzkoa. HB won six seats at the election with Otegi initially failing to be elected, but on 27 September 1995, he became a member of the Basque Parliament when he substituted a party colleague.

In November 1997 the Spanish Supreme Court found 23 senior members of Herri Batasuna guilty of collaboration with ETA, imprisoning them for seven years.[16] The ensuing power vacuum was filled by Joseba Permach and Arnaldo Otegi, chosen to become the new provisional leaders of Herri Batasuna.[17] The sentence was overturned by the Spanish Constitutional Court in 1999.[18] Since then, Otegi has been the major spokesman for the movement, first in Herri Batasuna, later in Euskal Herritarrok.[14]

Lizarra-Garazi Agreements[edit]

Otegi played a key role in the formulation of what would be known as the Lizarra-Garazi Agreements, or "Declaration of Estella-Lizarra". This agreement was signed on 12 September 1998 in Estella-Lizarra by every political party linked to Basque nationalism in the Southern Basque Country, and Ezker Batua (EB), the Basque branch of the Spanish Izquierda Unida (United Left).[19] These groups worked together under the understanding that "discussions would only take place while there was a total absence of all expressions of violence connected to the conflict".[19]

This agreement proposed a common position on the defense of Basque self-determination. In the chapter Keys to the resolution it says:

"A resolution will not involve any specific impositions, will respect the plurality of Basque society, will place every project on equal terms, will deepen democracy in the sense of giving to the citizens of the Basque Country the last word on the shaping of their future, and that their decision should be respected by the countries involved. The Basque Country should have the final word and the decision."[19]

ETA declared an "indefinite ceasefire" four days later,[20] the second in the history of the organization. The conservative Spanish prime minister José María Aznar stated he had authorized direct contacts with ETA[21] and he publicly called ETA a "Movimiento Vasco de Liberación" (Basque liberation movement).[22] He also moved 135 Basque prisoners to prisons closer to the Basque Country.[23] This claim made by the Spanish Government and some Spanish media was refuted by the Basque prisoners' family association Etxerat, which revealed that a similar or higher number of prisoners were being transferred farther away. The Spanish police continued arresting people and the negotiations never got very far.

Meanwhile, in the Basque parliamentary election in 1998, Arnaldo Otegi stood and won as a candidate for Euskal Herritarrok, in the constituency of Gipuzkoa. The Lizarra-Garazi agreements helped give Euskal Herritarrok their best electoral 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 when in 1999 ETA decided to end the ceasefire, and, in 2000, killed Pedro Antonio Blanco. ETA blamed the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) for not implementing the Lizarra-Garazi agreements, and the PNV blamed ETA. The cessation of the ceasefire was condemned by every signatory to the Lizarra-Garazi agreements with the exception of Herri Batasuna. This refusal to condemn violence brought the agreements to an end.

Glorifying terrorism charges[edit]

Interview with Arnaldo Otegi (English subtitles)

In August 2000, a senior Basque court accused him of "glorifying terrorism", after he shouted "Gora Euskadi ta askatasuna!" ("Up Euskadi and freedom!") in Saint-Jean-de-Luz with reference to ETA, banned as a terrorist group by the Spanish and French governments.[24] However, the Spanish Supreme Court closed the case, stating that crimes such as "glorifying terrorism" could not be pursued if committed abroad.[25][26] This precedent was then called forth by the Audiencia Nacional concerning the Carmelo Soria case.[27]

In May 2005 Arnaldo Otegi was put on trial for belonging to ETA, but was released after posting bail for €400,000. Shortly afterwards, a Spanish Supreme Court ruling confirmed the 15-month prison sentence against Otegi for "glorifying terrorism" in a case brought against him for a speech he had given in 2003 in commemoration of the killing of a prominent ETA member 25 years previously. He appealed the sentence, but a panel of judges unanimously rejected the appeal.[28]

Meanwhile, 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".[29]

On 27 April 2006 he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for the ongoing "glorifying terrorism" case. He started serving the sentence on 8 June 2007 [28] and was released from prison in August 2008. Meanwhile, starting in October 2007, Otegi was prosecuted along with Pernando Barrena and other former members of Batasuna, PSE political leaders Patxi Lopez and Adolfo Ares, as well as the then incumbent Basque Autonomous Community president Juan Jose Ibarretxe,for holding talks to find a compromise leading to peace, as opposed to the approach adopted by the judge of the Justice High Court of the Basque Country, who considered the meetings illegal.[30]

Gernika Peace and Reconciliation Award[edit]

While in prison, on 26 April 2013 Otegi received the Gernika Award of Peace and Reconciliation for his commitment in the quest of peace for the Basque Country, along with Jesus Egiguren, a public figure of the party PSE-EE, a Basque branch of the Spanish Socialists.[31] The mayor of Gernika Jesus Maria Gorroño was indicted by the National Court of Spain following a report filed by the Spanish association Dignidad y Justicia for granting the award, which spurred the indignation of Egiguren, the other person awarded.[32][33]

2009-2016 imprisonment[edit]

Case Bateragune and further indictments[edit]

On 16 October 2009, Otegi and several other Batasuna members were arrested and put on trial for their participation in the discussion that would pave the way for ETA's permanent ceasefire.[9] Whilst awaiting sentence he started a hunger strike, on 27 January 2010, but stopped it soon after.[34] In March 2010 the Spanish court sentenced Otegi to two years in prison for "glorifying terrorism" in a speech he gave in 2005 in which he compared an imprisoned ETA member to Nelson Mandela. He was also barred from holding public office for sixteen years.[35]

In September 2010 Otegi again faced trial for glorifying terrorism, this time at a November 2004 rally held in the Anoeta Velodrome in San Sebastián. However, he was found not guilty by the Spanish National Court, which 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".[36]

However, in September 2011 Otegi was found guilty of the initial charge, trying to rebuild Batasuna, and sentenced to ten years imprisonment.[9][37] On 9 May 2012 his sentence was reduced to 6½ years by the Supreme Court of Spain as they found enough evidence to prove his membership, but not his leadership of the organization.[10][11] He was elected Secretary General of abertzale Basque separatist party Sortu in February 2013.[38]

Campaign for release[edit]

On 24 March 2015, a campaign for Arnaldo Otegi's release was launched in the European Parliament by Basque musician Fermin Muguruza who read out the "International Declaration to Free Otegi and to bring Basque Political Prisoners home". The declaration was endorsed by 24 international personalities, including Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and José Mujica.[39] Otegi was released from prison on 1 March 2016, after six years in prison.

Ruling of the European Court of Human Rights[edit]

In November 2018, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Spain for breaching the defendants right to an impartial trial he did not have. As Arnaldo Otegi declared:[40]

"They lied, they fabricated a fake allegation, they incarcerated us, we served the term... We got incarcerated for designing a peaceful strategy. Now their big lie gets exposed. Our smile is broader, and Spain gets back the portrait of what it is, an antidemocratic state."

The president of the Basque Autonomous Community Iñigo Urkullu declared that it is "about time to stop tampering with the judiciary in order to condition politics".[41] The incumbent president of Catalonia Quim Torra considered that "Spanish Justice has been taken to task once again".[42] The president of Navarre Uxue Barkos also declared that "Spanish Justice gets a setback yet again, for which certain circles should rethink their ways".[43] The Spanish Minister of Justice Fernando Grande-Marlaska, whose job as a National Court judge was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for not investigating torture,[44] stated that the ruling did not question Spanish Justice, and that he respected it.[45] Despite the sentence, Pablo Casado, leader of the main opposition party in Spain PP, stated all the same that Arnaldo Otegi "should apologize for what he did".[46]

Following the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, in December 2020, the Supreme Court of Spain considered the ruling to be equivalent to absence of trial. It subsequently ordered a repetition of the trial, denying also Otegi and rest of defendants their eligibility for damages, since they had not be cleared.[47] In January 2024, a final sentence by the Spanish Constitutional Court admitted Otegi's appeal and overturned the decision issued by the Supreme Court to repeat the process based on the principle non bis in idem, the right not to be subject to trial twice for the same cause.[48]

Espionage scandal[edit]

On 19 April 2022, the Citizen Lab of the University of Toronto and The New Yorker disclosed a large-scale scheme of political espionage to Catalan and Basque pro-independence leaders by the Spanish Government, including EH Bildu's Arnaldo Otegi and Spanish MP Jon Iñarritu, eavesdropped through Israeli spyware Pegasus. A spokesperson of the interior ministry of Spain denied any involvement;[49][50] other Spanish authorities dismissed the possibility of revealing CNI's alleged participation on the grounds that the activity of the state's spy agency is secret.[51] Otegi ultimately put down the alleged espionage to the deep state inherited from Francoism and its impunity.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Eta gives terrorists disguise manual". The Independent. London. 15 December 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  2. ^ "Mutmaßliche Eta-Terroristen gefasst". Der Spiegel. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  3. ^ "Basque leader says Eta terror deaths 'should never have happened'". The Guardian. 18 October 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2023.
  4. ^ "John Carlin Interviews Arnaldo Otegi". Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  5. ^ a b "Biografía: Arnaldo Otegi, de ETA a la búsqueda de la paz". EITB (in Spanish). Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  6. ^ Goodman, Al (17 March 2003). "Basque independence party banned". CNN. Archived from the original on 16 July 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  7. ^ Goodman, Al (8 June 2007). "Spain arrests ETA-linked lawmaker". CNN. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  8. ^ Judicial auto in Spanish (PDF)
  9. ^ a b c "Engaging ETA". Irish Times. 19 September 2011. Archived from the original on 26 September 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  10. ^ a b Lázaro, Julio M. (9 May 2012). "El Supremo mantiene a Otegi en prision por un voto de diferencia". El País. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  11. ^ a b "El Supremo rebaja la condena de Otegi...", 9 May 2012. 9 May 2012.
  12. ^ "El Tribunal de Estrasburgo dictamina que Otegi no tuvo un juicio justo en el caso de la reconstrucción de Batasuna". (in Spanish). Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  13. ^ "El Constitucional cierra a Otegi la posibilidad de ser candidato". El Mundo (Spain). 6 September 2016.
  14. ^ a b c d Murua, Imanol (2010). Loiolako Hegiak. Elkar. p. 42. ISBN 978-84-9783-824-5.
  15. ^ "Biografía: Arnaldo Otegi, de ETA a la búsqueda de la paz". Eitb. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  16. ^ "ETA: Key events". BBC News. 16 September 1998. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  17. ^ "Otegi y su extenso 'currículo judicial'". El Mundo. 9 May 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  18. ^ "Basque leaders freed". BBC. 21 July 1999. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  19. ^ a b c Acuerdo de Lizarra, Especial El Mundo, El Mundo(in Spanish)
  20. ^ ETA declara una tregua indefinida, El Mundo(in Spanish)
  21. ^ Aznar confirma la reunión entre el Gobierno y ETA hace tres semanas (7 June 1999), El Mundo(in Spanish)
  22. ^ Video: Aznar contactos con ETA on YouTube (in Spanish)
  23. ^ El Gobierno de Aznar acercó a 135 presos de ETA antes del diálogo, El País(in Spanish)
  24. ^ "La Fiscalía de Bilbao se querella contra Otegi por apologia del terrorismo". ABC Sevilla. 10 August 2000. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  25. ^ El Supremo no actuará contra Otegi porque vitoreó a ETA fuera de España, El País, 28 May 2002 (in Spanish)
  26. ^ "Terror Case Thrown Out". The New York Times. 28 May 2002. Retrieved 28 October 2007.
  27. ^ Archivan el caso del asesinato de Carmelo Soria en Chile por el precedente de Otegi, El País, 31 May 2002 (in Spanish)
  28. ^ a b Basque leader arrested in Spain, BBC News, 8 June 2007 (in English)
  29. ^ Basque convicted for king insult, BBC News, 4 November 2005 (in English)
  30. ^ Bidaurrazaga, Aitor Guenaga (30 October 2007). "Ibarretxe, López y Otegi, al banquillo". El País (in Spanish). ISSN 1134-6582. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  31. ^ "Gernika premia a Jesús Eguiguren y Arnaldo Otegi". EITB (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  32. ^ "Eguiguren ve 'inadmisible' la situación del alcalde de Gernika". EITB (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  33. ^ "El alcalde de Gernika declara por dar el premio por la paz a Otegi". EITB (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  34. ^ "Otegi and Diez to be tried for 'Bateragune case'". EITB. 27 June 2011. Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  35. ^ "Spain jails Basque separatist leader Arnaldo Otegi". BBC News. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  36. ^ "Arnaldo Otegi found not guilty of glorifying ETA at Anoeta rally". EITB. 12 September 2010. Archived from the original on 28 July 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  37. ^ "Spanish Basque activist Arnaldo Otegi jailed". BBC News. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  38. ^ Basques from Spain, France launch new ‘independence’ party
  39. ^ "Global campaign demands: 'Free Otegi, bring Basque prisoners home'". Archived from the original on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  40. ^ Gil, Andrés (6 November 2018). "El Tribunal de Estrasburgo dictamina que Otegi no tuvo un juicio justo en el caso de la reconstrucción de Batasuna". (in Spanish). Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  41. ^ Europa Press (6 November 2018). "Urkullu pide una reflexión sobre "la perversión" del uso de la Justicia "para condicionar la política"". (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  42. ^ "Torra celebra el fallo de Estrasburgo en el caso de Otegi y ve "cuestionada" la Justicia española". (in Spanish). 6 November 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  43. ^ Europa Press (6 November 2018). "Barkos dice sobre la sentencia de Bateragune que "no es la primera vez que la Justicia española soporta un varapalo"". (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  44. ^ Torrús, Alejandro (7 June 2018). "Las sospechas de torturas a detenidos bajo su custodia persiguen a Grande-Marlaska". Público (in Spanish). Display Connectors, SL. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  45. ^ Europa Press (6 November 2018). "Marlaska defiende que la sentencia del TEDH sobre Otegi no pone en entredicho la Justicia española". (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  46. ^ EFE (6 November 2018). "Casado cree que Otegi debe de ser quien pida perdón pese a sentencia". Cadena COPE (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  47. ^ Herrera, Elena (14 December 2020). "El 'caso Bateragune' vuelve a la casilla de salida: nuevo juicio con la pena cumplida y tras el varapalo de Estrasburgo". (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  48. ^ Pozas, Alberto (17 January 2024). "El Constitucional da la razón a Otegi y rechaza que vuelva a ser juzgado por el caso Bateragune como quería el Supremo". (in Spanish). Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  49. ^ "Hauek dira Pegasus eta Candiru programekin ustez espiatu dituzten independentistak". EITB (in Basque). 19 April 2022. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  50. ^ "Catalan leaders targeted using NSO spyware, say cybersecurity experts". The Guardian. 18 April 2022. Retrieved 19 April 2022.
  51. ^ "Spanish minister Robles attacks critics of CNI spy agency: "It can't defend itself"". In English. 20 April 2022. Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  52. ^ "Otegi: "Aquí algunos salieron de rositas de 40 años de dictadura y ese Estado profundo sigue funcionando al margen"". 20 April 2022. Retrieved 22 April 2022.

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