Pro-independence Basque leader freed from jail

Basque leader Arnaldo Otegi released from prison after serving six years

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Arnaldo Otegi after he leaves Logrono prison in northern Spain March 1, 2016.

The leader and former member of banned Basque separatist group ETA has been released from a Spanish prison after serving more than six and a half years for attempting to restart the illegal party after it had been shut down.

Arnaldo Otegi, 57, is a key figure in the separatist movement of the northeastern Spanish region, was greeted by dozens of supporters Tuesday after leaving the prison in the northern city of Logrono.

Basque leader Arnaldo Otegi salutes supporters after he leaves Logrono prison. (Reuters)

"There are those who say there are no political prisoners in the Spanish state. But there would not be so many media here today if it wasn't for the fact that today a political prisoner left a Spanish jail," he said as his supporters chanted "Independence!"

Batasuna was banned in 2003 on the grounds it was part of ETA, which killed more than 820 people in a near four-decade campaign for a Basque independence.

Otegi was elected its secretary general in 2013 while in jail and in the 1990s he became one of the first ETA members to call for disarmament.

In October 2011 ETA declared a "definitive end to armed activity" but it has yet to formally disband or disarm.

He will not be eligible to run for office until 2022, although he can contest this restriction in court.