8 February 2007


Basque prisoner on hunger strike backs negotiation in 'The Times'

Including a horrific photograph, the online edition of the British paper published the first interview with the prisoner, on hunger strike for over three months.

De Juana Chaos (Photo: The Times On Line)
The online version of the daily The Times published Monday an interview with Iñaki de Juana Chaos, Basque prisoner on hunger strike for 91 days.

"A convicted key member of ETA, the Basque separatist group, who is close to death after three months without eating, has called on the Spanish Government to resume talks to reach a peace deal," the first paragraph of the Times On Line article reads.

In his first interview since he started his second hunger strike (the first lasted 63 days), Iñaki de Juana affirmed he "strongly supports the peace process." "I am completely in agreement with the democratic process of dialogue and negotiation . . . to resolve the political conflict between the Basque region and the French and Spanish states," de Juana told The Times.

"After the event at Barajas . . . resolution of the conflict is more necessary than ever," he said in written answers to Times reporter in Madrid Thomas Catan.

For the Spanish Government, De Juana's protest "is a growing political nightmare," according to Times On Line. Highlighting that the prisoner could die in a few days or weeks, the reporter affirms that this could be the worst crisis Zapatero's Government undergoes since he took office in 2004.

After comparing De Juana's case with Bobby Sands', IRA member who died in 1981 as a consequence of a hunger strike, Times reflects on the dilemma of the Spanish Government: "If he dies, de Juana will become a martyr to the Basque independence movement. Some fear that ETA could use his death to justify a renewed bombing campaign ... But if the Government allows him to serve out a reduced sentence at home, as some judges advocate, it will provoke an outcry on the Right."

"I would not have abandoned the hunger strike in exchange for a reduced sentence. The only acceptable alternative is complete liberty and an end to the brutal attacks on freedom of expression that this legal process implies," he said.



Supreme Court to consider hunger striker's appeal on Feb. 12

In turn, penitentiary institutions launched an investigation to know who took the picture of the Basque prisoner published in The times.

Basque prisoner on hunger strike Iñaki de Juana Chaos
The Spanish Supreme Court will consider the appeal lodged by the defence of the Basque prisoner on hunger strike Iñaki de Juana Chaos on February 12. He was sentenced to 12 years and 7 months in prison for terrorist threats in two opinion articles he published in the daily Gara in December 2004.

The 13 judges that make up the jury decided to give the appeal priority due to De Juana's health condition after 92 days on hunger strike.

In fact, the National Court recently studied the possibility to release him on parole, but eventually didn't do so.

Investigation for photo published in The Times

In turn, the penitentiary system launched an investigation to know how the interview with De Juana was made and who took his pictures.

Sources of penitentiary institutions explained that his partner, his lawyers and a group of Basque writers and musicians have only visited the prisoner.

The latest visit took place on January 31, when writer Laura Mintegi and other representatives of Basque culture visited De Juana.

The source affirmed that De Juana's photo, tied to his bed and fitted with a catheter to feed him, is "authentic" and "very recent."

It also added that no doctor authorised any media to interview the prisoner, who affirmed he wouldn't put an end to his hunger strike if it were not in exchange for his unconditional release.


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