12 December 2007

Protests spread as political activists are imprisoned

News 4th-11th of December.

The Spanish flag waving at the Lizartza's town hall was burnt in the Spanish Constituttion Day.

-33 defendants on the 18/98 macro trial are imprisoned.

-The French authorities have arrested 2 alleged ETA members who are accused of murdering the 2 Spanish police officers.

-15 young people from Donostia San Sebastian are arrested.

33 of the people arrested 10 days ago have been imprisoned. They are all political, social and cultural activists. 6 of them have been released on bail. All of the arrested are well known pro-independence activists who work in different areas and have been tried in the largest case ever in Spain.

The Spanish National Court decided to convict 46 of the defendants. The tribunal will not formally read out the verdicts until later on this month. A court official said that the defendants may try to flee Spain, that is why it has ordered the Spanish police to detain them before the convictions are announced.

The case stemmed from an eight-year inquiry started by the judge Baltasar Garzon. He has been leading the attacks against the pro-independence movement for years. Garzon alleged that ETA was not just made up of armed units but also had support through political, financial and media organizations. The defendants are accused of belonging to these groups, some of which have been outlawed.

25,000 people took to the streets in Bilbao in the aftermath of the police operation to show support to the detainees. Many other protests took place during the following days. Among them was the one organised by the largest Basque trade union ELA.

Last week while waiting at his home another convicted person was arrested. Just few minutes before he was detained Jose Luis Elkoro the 72 year-old historical pro-independence leader told a radio station: “We are being convicted under false charges and with disproportionate sentences. We fight through political means for noble cause, for the freedom of the Basque people.”

150 people demonstrated in Milan, Italy against these imprisonments and at the end of the rally the Spanish consulate was attacked with eggs and paint.

A 1 hour strike has also been called by the left wing trade union LAB to protest against these events. The strike will take place on Thursday.

-Last Tuesday 15 young people from Donostia / San Sebastian were arrested.

Since November 7th, the police had an arrest warrant against these young people. They therefore presented themselves in court in Madrid. They were arrested by the police at the entrance of the Spanish National Court.

8 of them have been put in jail. 6 others have been released on bail. Each of them had to pay 6,000 euro bail and they will have to present themselves at the local tribunal on a fortnightly basis and are not allowed to leave the Spanish state.

These arrests come a month after a huge police operation against the youth movement Segi. On October 30th 7 young people were arrested. They were kept incommunicado for over 5 days and were released. They denounced being tortured by the Spanish police while incommunicado.

All of the arrested are being accused of being members of an armed group as they are all involved in the youth organisation Segi.

A total of 26 young people have been arrested within a month. Half of them have been imprisoned.

Many protests have been taking place to denounce these arrests and to highlight the need to continue working in favour of independence.


-French police arrested two armed people in connection with the two Spanish policemen shot dead two weekends ago in the south of France.

A manhunt against the 2 attackers had been deployed after Saturday's shooting. 1,500 officers took part in the search.

On Wednesday, two people armed with handguns were arrested. The French authorities said that the pair looked like the two suspects sought in ETA’s killing. They were named as Asier Bengoa and Saioa Sanchez.

Both had been on the run since last year. Houses were searched in the Basque Country after the arrests. Spanish authorities quickly tried to link them with the shootings but the French police are still cautious about it.

The 3 Basques held in London will have their extradition result after Christmas.

Iñigo Albisu, Zigor Ruiz y Ana López Monge were arrested in Sheffield last may at the request of the Spanish police. They are accused of being members of ETA.

Spain has requested for the three Basques to be extradited. The case was heard last Thursday and the judge will give his verdict in the new year. They will have to assess the risk of torture the three arrested could be subjected to when being extradited.

About 40 people protested in front of the court in London in solidarity with the Basques. They travelled from the Basque Country to London to support the Sheffield Three.

A few days after the imprisonment of the 33 people involved in the 18/98 show trial, a new political trial is about to be open.

Udalbiltza the organization which aims to build Basque national institutions is about to be tried.

22 councilors will be tried in this case and although the start date for the trial has not been set, it is expected to start in the new year.
The elected representatives involved in this case, said that they are accused of carrying out legitimate work. The spokesperson for the case said that Udalbiltza is a democratic institution.
Udalbiltza has called on people to protest against this political trial.

-Spanish authorities prevented Francesco Cossiga, former Italian president of visiting the Basque pro-independence leader Arnaldo Otegi. Otegi has been in prison since last June. This imprisonment has been seen as an attack on the pro-independence movement for their firm position in the failed negotiation process with the Spanish state.

Former Italian president Cossiga said: “I don’t have any hopes with Spaniards but I do have hopes with Basques. If I could I’d said to my friend Otegi: Stay united and continue forward.”

When asked about positions held by governments and political parties during a peace process, Cossiga compared the conflict in Ireland and the Basque Country.
He said that he believes that in Britain there is a culture of democracy which doesn’t exist in Spain.

-We continue in Italy where two members of the pro-independence movement met senators and congress members to report on the last political developments in the Basque Country. They discussed about the imprisonment of the leadership of the pro-independence movement as well as the latest arrests of people accused in the 18/98 macro case.

The pro-independence movement representatives highlighted the need for the European Union to support a democratic solution to the conflict in the Basque Country which would be based on the right to self-determination.

-Spain and France have once again joint efforts against Basques.

Madrid and Paris have agreed to strengthen their cooperation against ETA.

The two presidents, José Luis Zapatero and Nicholas Sarkozy met in Lisbon on Saturday to discuss their cooperation around “anti terrorism”.

They have both agreed to reinforce their resources for investigating against ETA.

Although the French president treats the Basque conflict as a Spanish problem, he has agreed to support the Spanish government as he sees ETA as the enemy of democracy.

ETA members have traditionally been on the run in southern France and the north of the Basque Country. Spain and France already cooperate in fighting against ETA. But the Spanish president Zapatero said that they will now enhance this work by creating a joint police unit that will specifically focus on investigating ETA with the aim to prevent attacks. Zapatero explained that this “ is a qualitative step that will certainly bear fruit.”

The French Government has extradited two Basques. Asier Tapia and Gorka Urberuaga were arrested last month by the French Police following a European warrant issued by the Spanish court.

Asier Tapia will be judged as part of the show trial against the Basque youth movement, Jarrai-Haika-Segi. The prosecution has requested 100 years against him for taking part in a press conference. Urberuaga is being accused of doing graffiti’s.

-The still legal pro-independence party ANV, Basque Nationalist Action, called upon political parties and the Basque society to stop the attacks against the party.

In the last couple of weeks the pressure to ban the ANV party has increased. This historical pro-independence party was created more than 75 years ago and fought against Franco in the 1936 war.

They have asked other Basque political parties about their position and commitment to defend not just the right of ANV to work politically but to defend the right of all the Basque people to self-determination.

Civil and political rights in the Basque Country are under permanent attack with the constant banning of the right of association, freedom of speech and freedom to demonstrate.

-Dozens of protests took place last Thursday as Spaniards celebrated the Constitution Day. Under the slogan “On the way to independence, join the struggle” hundreds of people gathered in front of the offices of the Spanish labour party and Basque Nationalist Party the day before. At the rally in Bilbao the pro-independence leader Pernando Barrena warned of the dangers of an agreement between those parties. According to him this would be a new fraude against Basque people and it wouldn’t resolve the political conflict because it wouldn’t include the right to self-determination.

More than 60 education centres opened on the day of the Spanish Constitution.

Teachers and students decided to protest against the imposed public holiday that celebrates the Spanish constitution.

In Gasteiz / Vitoria, they demanded the right to officially celebrate the International day of the Basque Language on the 3rd of December.
Students also organised many protests and activities against the celebration of the Spanish Constitution.

2,000 people gathered in Durango called by ANV where the Basque Book and Album annual festival took place. Speakers said: “We want to vote for independence against this constitutional wall.”

1,500 young people demonstrated in Donostia/San Sebastian against the Spanish costitution and against the 26 arrests that were carried out in the town in the last 5 weeks. At the end of the protest they said the Spanish constitution is a prison for Basques.


-Hundreds of people walked the streets of Baranain, near Irunea/Pamplona last Thursday in a highly emotional rally to remember Karmele Solaguren. Karmele was killed three years ago on a road accident on her way to visit her son Ekain. Ekain was a Basque political prisoner jailed at that time in Madrid. His mother is the latest victim of the dispersal policy implemented by the Spanish and French states upon the Basque political prisoners. 16 relatives have been killed on the way to visit their loved ones. The majority of the 600 prisoners are scattered in more than 100 prisons at hundreds of miles away from home.

The immigration office of the Navarre’s government was attacked on Saturday night. A small homemade bomb exploded in the immigration office. The Spanish police have accused the Basque youth movement of the attack.
In Bilbao, 36 phone boxes were sabotaged. An anonimous call claimed the attack and encouraged all Basque people to play their part even if they are symbolic actions such as these. This attack happened on the 6th of December, day of the Spanish Constitution.

No comments: