15 November 2007

Thousands take to the streets against repression and criminalization

-The Basque Left movement has called on people to mobilize against the war strategy agreed by the Spanish Socialist and Basque nationalist PNV.

The Basque left movement has blamed Jose Luis Zapatero’s government for the break down of negotiations. Since then, the Spanish government in cooperation with the Basque Nationalist Party has been implementing a strategy of war and criminalization against the Basque Left movement.

Regular banning of demonstrations and commemorations, police heavy handedness, the arrest of the whole of the national executive of Batasuna and other daily arrests are just a few examples of the repressive strategy against the Basque left movement.
In order to respond to this, the Basque left movement have called on people to get to the streets and protest.

-On Thursday a delegation of the main Basque trade union ELA, led by its general secretary, visited the Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi at the Donostia/San Sebastian jail. Otegi has been imprisoned since last June. This imprisonment has been denounced by the majority of Basque society as an attack against peace efforts. ELA’s leader Jose Elorrieta showed his solidarity with Otegi and expressed his concern at what he defined as a very low democracy level in the Spanish state

-On the same day Gipuzkoa’s provincial Assembly called for the immediate release of Arnaldo Otegi and the rest of the pro-independence leaders arrested. Tha assembly also condemned the Spanish government. The proposed motion supported a peace process which would lead to the right of self-determination for the Basque Country.

-The accused tried at the so called 18/98 show trial called on the Basque people to mobilise. They expect to be sent to prison as soon as they announce their sentence in the next couple of weeks. They have called a national demonstration and a one hour strike.

52 political, social and cultural activists were judged by the Spanish Special Court in its longest trial ever. It went from November 2005 to March 2007 and was called a show trial due to the lack of guarantees for the defence and the clear political aim to criminalize pro-independence ideas.

The majority of Basque political parties, trade unions, grassroots organizations and international observers criticised the attack against civil and political rights.

The accused denounced that the Spanish state wants to silence the Basques. It wants to destroy organizations, media and institutions created by Basque society.

-Pernando Barrena, Batasuna’s spokesperson accused the Spanish government of trying to blow up all the bridges built during the negociation process. He also warned the Spanish government of the fact that they will need to fill many football stadiums of detenees to finish with the left pro-independence movement.

He said they expect more detentions in the next months before the Spanish elections in March.

-Basque pro-independence former MEP Karmelo Landa and international department member Haizpea Abrisketa met MEP’s and journalists last week in Brussels. They explained how the Spanish government “threw away the key of the peace process” after putting in prison the whole of the pro-independence executive. They said that nowadays there are no democratic conditions in the Basque Country as civil and political rights are constantly under attack.

They remembered the motion passed by the European Parliament in October 2006 in favour of a peace process and called on MEPs, European governments and institutions to push in favour of a conflict resolution like in Ireland.


-After four days incommunicado, the 4 young people arrested in Donosti San Sebastian were released. They suffered threats and abuse from Spanish police. They were accused of attacks against the police and of being part of the local Direction of Segi, the pro-independence youth movement.

Dozens of pro-independence youths held a press conference to denounce the criminalization of the youth movement. A march was also organised under the slogan “Against fascism, independence!”.


-The Basque political prisoner Inaki Bilbao who was on hunger and thirst strike for 9 days was sent back to prison from the hospital where he was taken to after having serious health problems. The doctors stood against the move as he wasn’t entirely recovered. Inaki Bilbao had to go into hunger and thirst strike last 22nd of October to protest against the isolation situation he suffers. Inaki is held in a jail at more than 700 miles away from the Basque Country.

-Basque political prisoner Inaki Erro has been in prison for 20 years. Prisoners support group in his home town organised last week a public talk with former prisoners who explained the audience the hard living conditions they suffer in jail. They also highlighted the need to show support to Inaki who is in isolation in a prison in the south of Spain. A picket line was also organised as by law he should be released after completing the three quarters of his sentence. There are many Basque political prisoners in this situation effectively kidnapped.

-Prisoner Angel Figueroa has been transferred from a prison in the Basque Country to Cordoba South of Spain.

The Basque political prisoner Angel Figueroa is one of the inmates who is suffering from serious ill health. He has serious epileptic attacks as well as sclerosis in his right side. His illness has been diagnosed as chronic last week.

This transfer comes at a time when Basque society has been demanding the release of prisoners who suffer from terminal or chronic illnesses.

Angel is 36 and has been in prison for 13 years. The anti repressive group Askatasuna says that Angel’s condition has worsened due to the prison conditions that Basque political prisoners are subjected to. Angel was diagnosed with epilepsy more than 20 years ago, but in the last 13 years he has been in jail he has not been treated properly to fight his illness.

In Askatasuna’s words, the Spanish government is trying to kill Basque prisoners, by keeping them in prison with serious illnesses.

In Angel’s case, his condition has worsen, by the fact that he has now been transferred from a prison in the Basque Country to the South of Spain.

As mentioned in previous weeks, there are 12 other Basque political prisoners suffering from terminal illnesses and Basque society has been demanding for their immediate release.

-During the week more than 50 towns saw protests in solidarity with the Basque political prisoners. Far away from the Basque Country another solidarity protest took place as well. The pro-independence movement of Britanny held a rally outside the Rennes jail were Basque political prisoner Argi Perurena is currently held.

They accused the French state of implementing the same dispersal policy as the Spanish. They also accused the French government of sending Basque prisoners to torture when they are extradited to Spain. They denounced the criminalization campaign against the pro-independence movement and sent solidarity greetings. Britanny has been for many decades a welcoming place for Basques and dozens of Bretons have been arrested for their help throughout the years. One of them died in prison.

-50 people traveled to Valencia last Saturday to support Inigo Muerza. He was released after 7 years in prison. 300 people gathered in his home town to welcome the political prisoner. But the Basque-Spanish police charged against them, broke windows at the local pro-independence pub and arrested two young men.

- 200 people gathered at the squated youth centre in Gasteiz/Vitoria to welcome the former political prisoner Gotzon Kortazar. This rally was also banned by the three western Basque provinces government. As we can see all welcoming events to Basque prisoners are systematically banned and attacked by the Basque-Spanish police. However, they haven’t managed to stop the support that thousands of people give to activists and volunteers.

News November 6th to 13th
-Last Tuesday hundreds of people protested in the historical city of Gernika against fascism. This town is world wide known as 70 years ago Spanish fascists helped by German nazis bombed Gernika and killed more than 400 civilians.

On Tuesday morning a trial was called against three Spanish soldiers who attacked a pro-independence pub during the summer. They were defended by a notorious Spanish fascist lawyer.

At the time of the trial house windows, shops and pubs shut down, Basque flags were hanged at balconies and a demonstration was called. Hundreds of people gathered behind a banner that said “The Basque Country is a nation, fascism out”. Demonstrators were attacked by the Basque-Spanish police. Riots spread around Gernika while the fascists arrived protected by the same police. A 19 year-old was arrested and police car windows were broken.

Inside the court the pro-independence pub staff were harrased and intimidated by the fascist squad.

-Once again the Spanish general prosecutor, appointed by the government, proudly claimed that the judiciary has been tougher with Basques during 2006, when ETA’s ceasefire was on. Tougher than when the conservative party was in power. No doubt, the Spanish government weren’t on ceasefire…

-The Basque diaspora in Mexico is organising a week long programme of events. They will remember the Basque rebel Xabier Mina who took part in the Mexican war of independence against Spain. They will also highlight the current situation in the Basque Country. Many debates and films will take place, in which Mexican and Basque historians, human rights lawyers and journalists will take part.

-The pro-independence trade union LAB organised a rally in Irunea/Pamplona last Friday. 400 representatives gathered to hear general secretary Rafa Diez call for union particularly within the trade union movement to achieve a structural political change to a democratic situation. He said they have to become an engine for self-determination and to strengthen the working class and pro-independence project as well.

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