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'Peace activists' arrested over 'Eta weapons trove' in France

Spanish and French police have made five arrests after discovering a suspected weapons trove for the Basque militant group Eta in southern France, the French interior minister said.

Human rights groups criticised the arrests, saying they involved well-known peace activists.

French interior minister Bruno Le Roux said the arrests were made late on Friday night when police found explosives and guns in a house in the French town of Louhossoa.

"They are the result of excellent co-operation" with Spanish authorities, Mr Le Roux said.

Spain's interior ministry had previously announced three arrests in Louhossoa.

Local media reported those arrested included the founder of an ecologist group, Jean-Noel Etcheverry; the former president of the Basque chamber of agriculture, Michel Berhocoirigoin; wine grower Michel Bergougnan; and two journalists, Beatrice Haran-Molle and Stephane Etchegaray.

French lawyer Michel Tubiana, honorary president of the League of Human Rights, said those arrested wanted to destroy Eta weapons.

"They are members of civil society who have only one concern, that Eta implements its commitment to disarm," Mr Tubiana told BFM television.

Anaiz Funosas, president of the peace movement Bake Bidea, said "the five arrested people are well-known supporters of the peace process. They were implementing a first step in the disarmament process".

The green party Europe Ecology called for their "immediate release".

In 2011, Eta announced it was renouncing violence in its campaign for independence for the Basque regions of northern Spain and south-west France.

It has yet to disarm or disband.

It is blamed for more than 800 deaths from 1968 to 2010.

AP

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