8 November 2007
Getting tough in the streets, even tougher in the prisons
Main News 30th October-6th November
The Basque political prisoner, Ainhoa Mujika has been taken out of isolation.
The director of Soto del Real prison in Madrid, has agreed to lift the isolation regime that was imposed on Ainhoa Mujika following weeks of protests from her fellow inmates.
In the last few weeks, prisoners in Soto del Real have been campaigning to end the policy of isolation against Basque Political prisoners. And there are currently no Basque prisoners left on isolation in this prison
Gorka Betolaza has been transferred from France to Spain. He was arrested in September in the Northern part of the Basque Country. The French police arrested him following a European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish State.
Gorka is part of the trial show against ‘Jarrai Haika Segi, the Basque youth movement. He has been transferred to a Spanish jail to complete his sentence of 6 years.
Last September over 20 young people were arrested and jailed as part of this trial show. They have all been charged of being members of an illegal organisation and have been jailed for 6 years.
The pro-amnesty movement has denounced the life sentence that has been inflicted to the Basque political prisoner Andoni Altza.
They demand his immediate release. Andoni was arrested in 1991 and according to the law at the time he should have been released in 2001 after completing the ¾ of his sentence. However he was refused to be freed.
Last November Andoni completed his full sentence. However the Spanish court applied a new condemnation which has extended his sentence until 2018.
The pro-amnesty movement demands his immediate release and has criticised the attitude of so called democratic political parties which are doing nothing in front of such injustice.
Inaki Bilbao Basque political prisoner has abandoned his hunger and thrust strike after 9 days.
Inaki was hospitalised last Thursday, after loosing nearly 2 stone since the beginning of his hunger and thrust strike on the 22nd of October.
He was protesting against the harsh prison regime that Basque political prisoners are arbitrarily subjected to in the new prison of Puerto III in Cadiz.
According to the anti repression group Askatasuna, from the day Bilbao was transferred to the new prison, he was put in an isolation cell in which the only contact was prison officers. Basque prisoners were also unnecessarily searched.
Puerto III prison, was opened last June. There are currently 6 Basque Political prisoners who are subjected to an extremely hard prison regime.
This modern high security prison has been design for 500 prisoners, 70 of them who are complete isolation.
According to prisoners, there is no natural light in the cells as the windows are covered with steel.
The regime is so strict that prisoners are only allowed to have things in twos. 2 T-shirts, 2 books, 2 pairs of sock…
Some of the prisoners have actually described Puerto II as the Spanish Guantanamo.
Meanwhile protests have been taking place in solidarity with Inaki and all the Basque prisoners throughout the Basque Country.
Protests to defend the right of Basque political prisoners as individuals and as a collective but also to demand political status
And like every Wednesday, in several universities students called protests in support of the prisoners.
Families of terminally ill prisoners have asked for support to bring the loved one’s home alive.
The Spanish and French governments are trying to kill our relatives. That is what family members of prisoners who are suffering terminal and chronic illnesses have claimed.
Last week family members requested the release of terminally ill prisoners. Following the clear lack of support from Basque institutions this time again they have called on Basque citizens to put pressure to demand the release of these prisoners.
They asked for help to bring them back alive and not in coffins.
There are currently 12 Basque political prisoners suffering from terminal illnesses. They are being prevented from receiving proper medical treatment.
In the case of prisoner Rego Vidal, who was supposed to be repatriated to the Basque Country was denied the transfer at the last minute. His medical has also mysteriously disappeared.
Prisoner Gotzone Lopez Luzuriaga who is suffering from cancer has been denied her last 4 radiotherapy sessions.
To add to this, this year 3 prisoners with psychological problems have tried to mill themselves this year.
Facing this serious situation, family members have been meeting representatives of Basque institutions who have not been very supportive.
A demonstration has been called in favour of autonomy for the 3 Northern Basque provinces.
Basque nationalists from different political views have called on citizens from the provinces of Lapurdi, Behe Nafarroa and Zuberoa to take part in the demonstration in favour of autonomy in the French controlled part of the basque country.
This group of people wish to send a very clear message to the French government and to the newly elected conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy, to implement the rules of democracy by acknowledging the rights of the Northern Basque Country to have its own institutions.
The demonstration will take place of the 15th December in Baiona.
The Tahiti pro-independence movement expressed their support for Batasuna after the arrests of the leadership at the beginning of October. Tahiti is a French colony in the Pacific. They have broad autonomy but it’s always endangered by the French government. One of the Tahiti pro-independence spokesperson took part at a conference promoted by the Basque left about autonomy in the north of the Basque Country last week and shared their experiences.
One of the main news item in the Basque and Spanish media last week was the Basque Main Court’s decision to start a trial against the the three western Basque provinces prime minister, members of the Spanish labour party and Batasuna for holding meetings during ETA’s ceasefire.
Most of political leaders said that this step is a clear criminalization of dialogue and a persecution of political ideas. Batasuna added that the Spanish government is using all means to avoid a democratic framework for the Basque Country and remembered nowadays nobody trusts the so-called Spanish justice system.
7 young people, aged between 19 and 22, were arrested in the early hours of last Tuesday in a Spanish police operation in Donostia/San Sebastian and accused them of taking part in numerous attacks against police, banks and other Spanish economic targets in the last months.
The Spanish Home minister linked this operation to another two which happened in the last couple of months. We were talking about one of them just two weeks ago. 18 young people have been arrested in total.
Hundreds of people protested in different neighborhoods in Donostia/San Sebastian in the afternoon asking for the end of repression and the release of the arrested nationalist youths. 1000 gathered in a centralized demonstration on Wednesday and 1500 on Saturday again. Barricades were erected in different parts of the city during the week.
Askatasuna, the anti-repression movement, denounced the police operation and warned of the risk of being tortured by the police.
Batasuna said the PSOE, the Spanish labour party wants to show before next elections in March that they can be even tougher than the right wing Popular Party but increased repression won’t stop the popular demand of real democracy for the Basque Country.
Today, 7 days after the arrests the youth are still incommunicado after after having spent 5 days on police hands and two in prison.
The post office in Zalla, close to Bilbao was attacked last Wednesday and two banks in Irunea/Pamplona and a Basque-Spanish policeman’s wife’s shop in the coastal town of Ondarroa during the week. These kind of attacks are usually claimed as a response to repression.
The legacy of the so called Spanish civil war is still very much alive in the Basque Country. Many associations have been formed in the last couple of years to remember those killed by fascism and their beliefs. Even here in West Belfast a mural remembering the 70th anniversary of the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika was painted over the summer. It reflects perfectly the suffering of the Basque people. This is why these associations have denounced the so called Law of historic memory passed by the Spanish parliament last week. According to them this law doesn’t give a proper answer to their demands of recognition of the Franco dictatorship victims and doesn’t punish those who supported it. Protests were held in many different towns along the Basque Country during the week.
ANV, Basque Nationalist Action, is the oldest of the left pro-independence parties and fought in the front in the 1936-1939 war to defend the Basque Country against Spanish fascism. Nowadays Spanish fascism is threatening them once again. There are constant calls from Spanish media to ban ANV as they did with Batasuna and the Spanish government just passed a law where they jeopardize the fundings they owe ANV for all the properties stolen during the war if they finally get banned.
Last week ANV organised a press conference where they announced they will stand at the next Spanish general elections in March and dismissed any trial to get them out of them. They want to carry the pro-independence banner to Spain and defend this option as the only one to ensure the Basque Country will become a state once again as it was 500 years ago.
For three days MEP’s and politicians from all around Europe took part at the first meeting of the Gernika Net for Self-determination at the historical Basque town. Among them was Francie Brolly from Sinn Féin. This association was formed last April during the events organised on the 70th anniversary of the fascist bombing to defend internationally the right of the Basque County to self-determination right. Before the first meeting they were welcomed by the Gernika’s mayor who said: As you all know 70 years ago the fascist bombs destroyed this city. They wanted to destroy Gernika and his tree, the symbol of Basque freedom. Lots of people died but we want you to know that today the Basque people we continue fighting on defence of our rights until we achieve self-determination.
After the meeting a Flemish MP and Lloyd Quinan from the Convention for Scottish independence visited Arnaldo Otegi, Batasuna’s leader in jail. At the prison gates they spoke to the media and denounced once again the irresponsibility of the Spanish government who instead engaging in dialogue they imprison the pro-independence leaders.
Al Jazeera English, the influential world wide TV channel broadcasted a special report on the Basque Country last 10th of October during People and Power show. The programme called “Basque battles” came up following the arrest of 23 members of the Basque "Batasuna" party. People & Power presented an exclusive report filmed during the build-up to these arrests.
They investigated the banning of pro-independence Basque parties by the Spanish government in local elections due to their alleged links with ETA.
You can watch it by clicking on our Images section just on the right hand side of the blog.