Barca's Oleguer loses sponsors over ETA comments

February 9, 2007

MADRID, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Spanish sportswear manufacturers Kelme have cancelled their contract with Barcelona defender Oleguer after the player questioned the way in which a Spanish High Court has dealt with an ETA hunger striker.

Oleguer told Spanish media that the court's decision to keep convicted ETA killer Inaki de Juana behind bars despite a life-threatening hunger strike 'reeked of hypocrisy' compared to the treatment given to other high-profile prisoners suffering from health problems.

Kelme said the comments had prompted their decision to cancel the contract of the 27-year-old defender who is renowned for his strong political views and support for Catalan independence.

'We believe in the freedom of thought and expression, but the player's relationship with Kelme was based exclusively on sporting criteria and so we have taken the unilateral decision to rescind his contract,' Kelme said in a statement on their website.

De Juana is protesting his 12-year conviction for making terrorist threats in the Basque language newspaper Gara. He has already served a 20-year sentence for the murder of 25 people in ETA attacks.

'I wanted to use the De Juana case as an example to question the independence of the judiciary from political power,' Oleguer told a news conference at the Nou Camp earlier this week.