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Spain's top court orders retrial of Basque separatist

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered a retrial for the leader of a Basque separatist party, months after it annuled his 2011 conviction following what a top European court said was a breach of his right to be tried by an impartial judge.

Arnaldo Otegi, now leader of the left-wing party Bildu, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2011 for trying to re-launch Batasuna, a party declared illegal by Spain due to its links to armed group ETA. He served a reduced sentence and was freed in 2016.

The prosecutor’s office had sought a re-trial, saying that what it called a procedural error should not lead to Otegi being cleared of the charges.

The Supreme Court order comes a few days after Otegi’s party helped Spain’s minority leftist government approve the budget on its first reading and could potentially affect the balance of forces in a deeply fragmented parliament.

Otegi, a key figure in the separatist movement of the northeastern Spanish region, has always said that he and others convicted in the case were designing a strategy for peace and had done nothing wrong.

“They didn’t tame us, they didn’t bend us, they won’t subdue us! Smile, we shall overcome!” he tweeted on Monday after the retrial was announced.

The European Court of Human Rights concluded in 2018 that Otegi had been denied a fair trial.

ETA, which called a unilateral ceasefire in 2011, said in 2018 it had completely dismantled and ended all its activity after a five-decade campaign of violence across Spain in which about 850 people were killed.

Reporting by Emma Pinedo, editing by Gareth Jones