16 December 2008


Basque Info 16/12/08

-Basques tortured during 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

A French-Spanish police operation against ETA finished with eight people arrested. Three were arrested in France and five were arrested in the south of the Basque Country. It seems as though the French police allowed five to escape from their operation in order to let the Spanish police arrest them and torture them.

All of them have been sent to prison after five days incommunicado. During those days they were brutally tortured by the Spanish police. They were blind-folded and kept naked for the whole time; they were beaten, drenched in cold water, constantly suffocated with plastic bags and threatened with electric shocks and with being raped.

All of this happened while the world celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. The Spanish government took this opportunity to launch an alleged plan to stop torture. The anti-repression organization Askatasuna denounced the hypocrisy of such a thing and accused the Spanish government of using torture as a war tool against the Basque pro-independence movement.

Askatasuna stated that at least 60 Basque citizens have been tortured this year.
In fact, 44 anti-torture Spanish groups criticized the Spanish government plan against torture. In a public letter they addressed to the Spanish prime minister Zapatero, they ask the government to follow the UNO recommendations and cease the incommunicado practice.

The Spanish branch of Amnesty International asked, along with the suppression of the incommunicado practice, for the use of video recording of the whole process of detention.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in support of the detainees in their home towns during the week.

-Spanish government tries to divide Basque political prisoners.

Last week the Spanish home minister Rubalcaba defended the need for the dispersal policy against Basque political prisoners as a tool and a state policy to defeat ETA. 761 Basque political prisoners are scattered in 85 jails across French and Spanish territories at hundreds of miles from their homes and relatives. UNO has constantly denounced this practice as against human rights.

80 former Basque political prisoners gathered at a press conference last Saturday to denounce the latest Spanish government attempt to cause divisions and to use the Basque prisoners' collective as political hostages. They said the Spanish government want to prolong the conflict.

The Basque political prisoners’ relatives’ organization, Etxerat, said that 17 friends and relatives have died in road accidents on their way to visit their loved ones in prison during the past 20 years. The latest accident left two relatives injured last week.

Etxerat called a national demonstration on prisoners for 3rd of January next, with the main demands being: No to the death sentence! No to sentences without end! Basque prisoners to the Basque country!

Last week the three Basque western provinces' government called for the immediate release of all seriously ill prisoners.

Hundreds of people gather every Friday in more than 60 villages and towns across the Basque Country to show support for the Basque political prisoners.

-Thousands of people gathered in support of Basque language.

In 1978 40,000 people filled Bilbao’s football stadium to defend the Basque language. In 1998 125,000 people filled the Basque Country’s five main stadiums to say yes to the Basque language. Last Saturday thousands and thousands filled the Bilbao Exhibition Centre to show their commitment to live through the Basque language.

10 years ago the Basque language organizations' council, Kontseilua, was created and a strategic plan has been developed since. With last Saturday’s event Kontseilua wanted to ask for another step on the way to achieve the right to live through Basque in a Basque-speaking Basque Country. A Ten Point Manifesto was launched and new initiatives will be put in place over the coming years.

-Solidarity with Inaki de Juana in Belfast.

Former Basque political prisoner and hunger striker Inaki de Juana appeared in a Belfast Court last week to continue fighting his extradition to Spain. The Belfast Basque Solidarity Committee and supporters gathered outside. The judge will take a decision this week to see whether an extradition process proceeds or not.

10 December 2008


Basque Info 9/12/08

Main news :

ETA kills a businessman involved in the construction of the High Speed Train.

Inazio Uria owner of the Altuna and Uria construction company was shot dead on Thursday in Azpeitia, Basque Country.

The 71 year old is one of the owners of Altuna and Uria one of the biggest construction companies in Gipuzkoa which owns many construction projects in the province, including the construction of the train tracks for the future high speed train.

The construction of the high speed train has created huge controversy in the Basque Country. This new project aims to connect France and Spain with a high speed train going through the Basque Country. Although politicians and business men believe that this would benefit the Basque Country, it would destroy the landscape, and would have huge negative socio economic implications.

This project has been rejected by a big section of Basque society and has been heavily criticized in the past by ETA. In fact the Basque armed organisation, has attacked the offices of the construction companies as well as their equipment involved in this project several times.

The killing has been condemned by politicians, trade unions and other institutions and have come out defending the high speed train project. Many protests have also taken place to condemn the killing.

Following Uria’s killing, the Spanish government has agreed to proceed to the banning of the remaining pro independence councils in the Basque Country.

Pro independence councils have refused to condemned the killing of Inazio Uria. Using this excuse, The Spanish right has been putting pressure on the government through the media to ban pro independence politicians from participating in councils in the Basque Country.

1,000 people rallied in Durango, near Bilbao, last Saturday against the High Speed Train. Two people blocked trains in Durango by locking themselves inside barrels of cement on Monday while supported by another 50 people. Basque-Spanish police charged against them and arrested two.

- The pro independence movement calls on all sectors of Basque society to look at ways of opening a new political cycle.

30 years after the Spanish Constitution was imposed upon Basques, the pro independence movement notes that it has no credibility what so ever in the Basque Country. On 6th December 1978, the Spanish Constitution was rejected by the majority of the Basques.

The pro independence movement, also acknowledges that they have a responsibility to propose an alternative and have called on all sectors of Basque society, specially the pro-independence ones, to debate and think about a common strategy to achieve a democratic scenario in the Basque Country.

-Etxerat, calls to unite forces around three basic demands.

The Basque Prisoners’ relatives group Etxerat, want to unite forces around three basic demands: the release of terminally ill prisoners, as well as the immediate release of the prisoners who have fully completed their sentence and still remain in jail. Finally they have demanded to repatriate all the Basque political prisoners to the Basque Country. Currently the over 750 prisoners are scattered over 100 French and Spanish prisons.

Culture News :

Thousands of people attend the annual Basque book and music fair.

All Basque music and books were present in the Durango fair. More than 300 stalls and over 150 participants took part in it.

This year was the 43rd edition of the fair and it has been hugely popular. This is a demonstration of the strength of Basque culture which suffered persecution and it’s still ignored by Spanish and French authorities.

The historic singer Mikel Laboa was remembered. The unusual but very popular Basque singer died earlier in the week.

According to the organizers the credit crunch had very little effect on sales.

You can listen to the music of one of the biggest sellers of this year, Gatibu, by logging here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdRVtiS1cWI

2 December 2008


Basque Info 2/12/08

-First national public interview with Arnaldo Otegi.

The former spokesperson of the pro-independence movement, Arnaldo Otegi, was imprisoned by the Spanish state just weeks after the 2007 negotiation process collapsed. He was released in August of this year. For the last three months he’s been holding different meetings with a wide range of people to be able to draw an analysis of the political situation.

Last Sunday in an interview in the pro-independence daily Gara, he said that he has come to the conclusion that there is a feeling of political stalemate, especially with the ongoing terrible repressive situation. He has found frustration and scepticism also, but at the same time he has seen that many sectors are looking to the political nationalist left because they believe that this movement is the only one who can move the political scenario forward. These sectors hope the pro-independence movement will be able to take the initiative again and build an attractive broad movement for them to join.

According to Otegi, despite having made some mistakes from which they can learn, it’s now very clear that the Spanish state has failed with its last 30 years strategy to assimilate the Basque Country and to destroy the pro-independence movement.

There is also a majority of people, political majority and trade unionist majority which could create a new alternative. Otegi believes it is the work of the pro-independence movement to articulate that majority and to build an effective strategy to reach a democratic situation in the Basque Country and to continue working after towards independence and socialism.

-Largest Basque trade union celebrates national congress.

Hundreds of delegates attended last weekend the 12th national congress of largest Basque trade union ELA. Different motions were passed and among them one denouncing torture and the situation Basque political prisoners suffer in jail. ELA, who has the 35% of the votes in workers elections, reaffirmed its position in favour of the building of a broad pro-self determination movement in the Basque Country.

-Successful night in favour of the Basque Country in Belfast.

Over 120 people attended last Saturday’s ‘Songs of Struggle’ Night in Belfast organised by the local branch of the Irish Basque Solidarity Committees. Singers and musicians from Belfast, Dublin and the Basque Country created a great night of quality music, sentiments and solidarity. A new initiative, the Friends of the Basque Country network was launched and people were encouraged to join. In this way, they would be able to help raise awareness and defend the self-determination right for the Basque people.

-Basque political prisoner Axun Gorrotxategi is on hunger strike since last Thursday. She is demanding medical assistance after months of negligence.

-Last Friday 68 towns and villages across the Basque Country saw the usual weekly vigils in favour of the 762 Basque political prisoners scattered in 82 jails around France and Spain. Only 15 are imprisoned in the Basque Country. 29 of them have already served their time but are still being kept in prison as political hostages.
The largest of the vigils took place in Gasteiz/Vitoria where 450 people attended and welcomed local former prisoner Gorka Perea recently released.

-20 young people on a black list.

A massive press conference was held last Saturday in Irunea/Pamplona to denounce that the Spanish police has a black list with the names of 20 local pro-independence youth. These young people have offered themselves to appear before the judge but he has refused receiving them. Another 20 people have been arrested in the city in the last three months and 15 of them have claimed they were tortured.

The young people reaffirmed their intention to continue with their public work in their neighbourhoods to bring positive change to their community.

Basque greatest revolutionary singer and songwriter Mikel Laboa dies.

Mikel Laboa, born in Pasaia (Basque Country) in 1934, is also one of the most respected figures in contemporary Basque song due to his eagerness to revitalize and modernize Basque oral tradition. He inspired generations of Basques and put music and lyrics to their feelings about their country and freedom. He connected with the new punk and rock Basque movement in the 80’s and continued supporting young bands until he died.

Laboa had been recently honored with the Gipuzkoa Gold Medal, greatest award given by the regional Council, planned for December 23rd and which he was going to attend. He was just awarded with a prestigious music prize in Catalonia over the weekend.
His death has shocked the Basque Country and he will be very sadly missed. His music will live forever.

You can enjoy one of his most famous songs performances along the worldwide acclaimed Orfeon Donostiarra/Donostia-San Sebastian’s Choir: