14 January 2009


Basque Info 13/01/09

-Peace dialogue criminalized.

Last Thursday 8 Basque politicians sat at the Basque region’s Spanish High Tribunal to be tried for holding political peace talks in 2006. At that time ETA was observing a ceasefire after an agreement was reached with the Spanish government. 5 of the accused are members of the banned pro-independence party Batasuna, another one is the nationalist prime minister of the three western Basque provinces and the other two are the local leaders of the Spanish Labour Party.

Four of the Batasuna accused were brought from Spanish prisons where they have been kept since October 2007 after the entire leadership of the party was arrested by the Spanish police. The only one of them who remains free, Arnaldo Otegi, was released last August after serving a one year sentence. Otegi said this new trial has been set to criminalize political dialogue and that it shows the anti democratic character of the Spanish state. Alex Maskey from Sinn Féin, who was at court to show support to the Batasuna accused, said that this is a terrible mistake and that there are just two ways to follow: the Gaza’s one or the South Africa’s one.

The case, which has created huge controversy, has been the main news of the week not just in the Basque Country and Spain but even has attracted the attention of the international media.

Finally on Monday 12th the court ruled that the two groups taking the case did not constitute a legitimate prosecution and dropped the charges.

-New pro-independence election platform created.

15 well known Basque activists from trade union, culture, sport, politics and social work background launched a new political platform called Demokrazia 3 Miloi/ Democracy 3 Million at a press conference last Saturday.

Their objective is to stand in next elections for the three western Basque provinces parliament on the 1st of March. At the press conference, which attracked huge attention from more than 10 TV stations and 20 journalists, the promoters said they want to gather support and push for a pro-independence and progressive space that will become a key force for political and social change in the Basque Country.

They asked for the Basque citizens to give their support. Thousands of signatures are required by law in order to be able to become an electoral platform and stand in elections.

The Spanish government and media have already called for the banning of this new Basque pro-independence political organization and the courts have asked the police to gather evidence against its members.

Several Basque pro-independence political parties have been banned in recent years and prevented from standing in elections leaving thousands of people without civil and political rights.

-Thousands of people gather in favour of dialogue and resolution.
Last Saturday thousands of people gathered in the Basque town of Azpeitia. They wanted to show support to their pro-independence mayor who is under huge pressure from pro-Spanish parties, government, media and judges. The harrasment started after a local business man involved in the construction of the controversial High Speed Train was killed by ETA last month. Another 15 pro-independence mayors were present at the gathering. The pro-Spanish forces want to remove them from their positions and replace them with their own mayors.

This campaign is part of the overall Spanish strategy of criminalization and attack against the pro-independence movement.

-Support for Basque political prisoners.
Hundreds of people gathered throughout the week in over 100 towns across the Basque Country to demand proper and humane treatment of the 765 Basque political prisoners. Etxerat, the relatives association, congratulated the Basque people for their ongoing support and especially for the 37,000 strong demonstration on the 3rd of January.

Precisely due to this rally the Spanish Home Minister declared last week his intention of investigating it to see if it can considered an offence and consequently prosecute the organisers - the Basque political prisoners’ relatives association.

Basque former prisoner Xabier Irastorza was arrested by French police in the north of the Basque Country last Thursday and sent to prison due to a European arrest warrant issued by the Spanish Special Court. Basque political refugees Lorea Zeziaga and Alejo Moreno were arrested in the north by French police on Tuesday 13th. Meanwhile, Basque prisoner Jon Lizarribar started a hunger strike against being expelled from the French state and placed in the hands of the Spanish police after serving his sentence in French jails.

-Europe punishes Spain.
17 years ago a Basque pro-independence youth was attacked by Spanish police with tear gas and left in coma. His face was badly burnt and despite this, he survived his injuries which are still evident on his face. The Spanish government and tribunals denied responsabilty but finally last week the European Court ordered the Spanish state to pay 170,000€ to the youth. This is a landmark case, as nothing like this has never happened before.

-Thousands of Basques take to the streets in support of Palestine.

3,500 people gathered in Irunea/Pamplona and 5,000 in Bilbao last Saturday in demonstrations organised by the Basque pro-independence movement in support of the Palestinian people and to call for a complete boycott of Israeli goods and its occupation of the Gaza Strip. Many more thousands took to the streets in villages and towns across the Basque Country during the week.

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