Pro-independence Basque leader*s election candidacy blocked

Basque authorities say a prominent regional leader who was jailed for his links with the outlawed armed group ETA can*t stand as candidate in upcoming elections because his sentence bans him from holding office until 2021.

The regional electoral board said Wednesday that Arnaldo Otegi, one-time leader of the outlawed Batasuna party, couldn't run for regional president for the pro-independence EH Bildu party in the Sept. 25 election. He is expected to appeal the decision.

Politicians are divided over whether the ban might hamper the region's peace process and fuel the separatist movement.

Otegi was jailed for six years in 2009 for trying to form a new political group under ETA's orders.

ETA, which killed 829 people in a four-decade campaign for Basque independence, called a cease-fire in 2011.