Europe

Thousands protest Spain's dispersion policy for ETA inmates

  • Pro-independence Basque demonstrators hold up pieces of cardboard as fingers reading, ''I denounce'', as they demand the return to the Basque Country of all prisoners of ETA, the Basque armed group, as they gather on the street during a protest in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The Basque armed group ETA, who killed over 800 people, declared a total cease-fire in 2011. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

    Pro-independence Basque demonstrators hold up pieces of cardboard as fingers reading, ''I denounce'', as they demand the return to the Basque Country of all prisoners of ETA, the Basque armed group, as they gather on the street during a protest in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The Basque armed group ETA, who killed over 800 people, declared a total cease-fire in 2011. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pro-independence Basque demonstrators march to demand the return to the Basque Country of all prisoners of ETA, the Basque armed group, as they gather on the street during a protest in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The Basque armed group ETA, who killed over 800 people, declared a total cease-fire in 2011. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

    Pro-independence Basque demonstrators march to demand the return to the Basque Country of all prisoners of ETA, the Basque armed group, as they gather on the street during a protest in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The Basque armed group ETA, who killed over 800 people, declared a total cease-fire in 2011. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pro-independence Basque demonstrators hold up a banner, center, reading ''Basque Prisoners of the Basque Country. All their rights'', as they demand the return to the Basque Country of all prisoners of ETA, the Basque armed group, as they gather on the street during a protest in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The Basque armed group ETA, who killed over 800 people, declared a total cease-fire in 2011. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

    Pro-independence Basque demonstrators hold up a banner, center, reading ''Basque Prisoners of the Basque Country. All their rights'', as they demand the return to the Basque Country of all prisoners of ETA, the Basque armed group, as they gather on the street during a protest in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. The Basque armed group ETA, who killed over 800 people, declared a total cease-fire in 2011. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)  (The Associated Press)

Tens of thousands of people are protesting in the Basque city of Bilbao calling for some 350 imprisoned members and sympathizers of the armed pro-Basque independence group ETA to be allowed serve their sentences closer to home in northern Spain.

In addition to prisoner families, relatives of victims of ETA took part for the first time in the annual demonstration. Protesters held placards reading "I Denounce" against the Spanish government's policy of dispersing ETA prisoners in 40 prisons across Spain to restrict contacts between them.

ETA killed 829 people in its nearly four-decade campaign for Basque independence. The group announced a permanent cease-fire in 2011, but Spain's Interior Ministry says there will be no change in its dispersion policy until the group fully disarms and its members ask for pardons.