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Spain mourns executive's murder

Santiago Oleaga
Santiago Oleaga was killed in a suspected ETA shooting  

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain -- Thousands of Spaniards have marched silently through the northern city of San Sebastian to mark the killing of a newspaper executive blamed on the ETA Basque separatists.

Santiago Oleaga Elejabarrieta, 54, the chief financial officer of the leading regional newspaper El Diario Vasco (The Basque Daily), was shot in the head and died almost instantly on Thursday.

It is the first killing blamed on ETA since elections on May 13 dealt a severe blow to its political wing.

Residents gathered in the Basque city of San Sebastian on Friday where Oleaga was killed and walked behind the banner which read: "ETA no: peace and freedom."

graphic Basque conflict: Violence in Spain

  • Overview
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  • Standing vigil
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  • Recent stories

Basque regional government spokesman Josu Jon Imaz called for freedom of ideas "without threats, without extortion, without blackmail," in a speech before the march.

Journalists had earlier met in silence around a sculpture in the town to protest against intimidation by ETA.

The journalists read a statement which said: "However much they kill and try to impose their cause through terror we, as media professionals, will defend the expression which took so long to achieve in this country."

Spain lived under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco until 1975.

ETA -- which means Basque Homeland and Freedom in the Basque language -- sees Spanish-language media as an extension of an "occupying" Spanish state and considers the current government an heir to Franco.

The separatists, continental Europe's last major active guerrilla group, typically target local politicians, members of the security forces and, recently, journalists, usually with bombs or shootings.

Some 800 people have been killed by ETA over the last 30 years in its campaign for an independent Basque state.

El Diario Vasco -- a Spanish-language paper which editorialises against ETA and its supporters -- said the shooting was designed to terrify newspapers and their employees.

A front-page editorial read: "There is no doubt about the intentions of Santiago Oleaga's killers: they killed him with a sadism that defies description, aimed at bringing unease and fear to so many professionals working for different media."

El Diario Vasco has often had menacing slogans daubed on its headquarters' walls. Last year a bomb caused serious damage to the building but no injuries.

In France, the media watchdog Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF) has included ETA in a "name and shame campaign" which fingered 30 "enemies of the press," Reuters reported.

Speaking on Spanish state radio on Thursday, RSF President Fernando Castello said Europe "would never take in a supposedly independent country constructed over corpses."

The European Commission joined the condemnation of what it called a "despicable and cowardly" killing and praised Basque journalists for standing up for human rights.

• The Basque Country
• Spanish Interior Ministry
• Association for Peace in the Basque Country
• History of the Basque Country

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