A HUMAN chain of more than 100,000 people covering 125 miles linked the Basque Country cities of San Sebastian, Bilbao and Vitoria yesterday to recognise the right to self-determination.

The push for greater autonomy saw 500 volunteers organise more than 1000 buses to ferry people to and from their points in the chain, in which many were joined together by neckerchiefs on which they had written their aspirations.

The Basque Country has a higher degree of self-government than independence-seeking Catalonia and, although support for Basque independence has reportedly fallen over the years, many believe that the population should be given the right to vote on its future ties to Madrid.

Yesterday’s event was organised by the Basque group Gure Esku Dago (In Our Own Hands) and many of those who took part wore symbols signifying support for Catalan independence.

Space was also given to those supporting the politicians and civic leaders who have become Catalonia’s political prisoners.

A spokesman for the left-wing Basque nationalist coalition EH-Bildu said in Vitoria, the seat of the Basque Parliament, that she expected political leaders to take notice of the demonstration. Maddalen Iriarte said: “Do not close [your] eyes to the thousands of Basque citizens who have left today in the street.”

Gorka Urtaran, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) mayor of Vitoria, added: “The Basque people have the right to decide their future with complete freedom.”

This right, he said was included in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights, Article 1: “All peoples have the right to freely decide their future.”

Former Lehendakari (Basque Parliament presidents) Juan Jose Ibarretxe and Carlos Garaikoetxea, were also in attendance, along with the mayors of the three Basque capital cities and EH-Bildu leader Arnaldo Otegi.

Angel Oiarbide, a spokesman for the In Our Own Hands initiative, said: “In 2014, the atmosphere told us that it was not possible to join people of different thoughts.

“We believe that the right to decide is the meeting point for all the political sensitivities of the country and that is why we would not understand that a statute was agreed that would be in tune with Madrid.”