Basque parliament ejects radicals, cheers King

Deputies belonging to a militant Basque separatist party, Herri Batasuna, were forcibly evicted from the Basque parliament at Guernica Feb. 4 after they tried to sabotage a historic act in honor of the Spanish monarch, King Juan Carlos.

The deputies -- who had refused to enter the building at Guernica until the King visited the Basque country -- stood up and sang Eusko Guadariak, a hymn in praise of the Basque separatist organization, Euzkadi to Azkatasuna (ETA).

Moderate Basque politicians immediately rallied to the monarch. On orders of the president of the Basque parliament policemen forced the deputies out of the building. There followed a standing ovation in support of the King. Visibly moved, the King began a conciliatory speech with the words, "Against those who do not respect freedom of expression, I want to proclaim my faith in the [ Spanish] democracy and my confidence in the Basque country."

The King, accompanied by Queen Sofia, decided to go ahead with his first official visit to the region in spite of the resignation of the Spanish prime minister, Adolfo Suarez, on Jan. 29. In the province of Alava and in the region's main industrial city, Bilbao, the royal couple had a mixed reception Feb. 3. The highlight of the trip was their visit to Guernica Feb. 4.

Guernica is where Spanish kings traditionally have taken an oath to uphold the political and economic privileges of the Basques in return for Basque allegiance to the crown. The tradition, which dates from the Middle Ages, continued to apply up to the 18th century.

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