31 October 2009


South African mediator Brian Currin analyses the chances for peace in the Basque Country and talks about the facilitation work he has been carrying out with the pro-independence left.

30 October 2009


Listen to this week's Basque Info. Along with our news section this week you'll find an interview with Basque Human Right's Watch's spokesperson.


Basque Info 28/10/09 

  •  Arrests and demonstration speed up debate about nationalist common strategy.
  • Thousands demand official recognition for Basque language in the north. 
  • United Nations against arbitrary political imprisonments.
  • Widespread support for Basque prisoners’ repatriation.

-Arrests and demonstration speed up debate about nationalist common strategy.

On the 17th of October more than 37,000 people rallied against the arrest of ten prominent Basque pro-independence activists in previous days. The powerful response to the attack and the unity showed by all sections of Basque nationalism has deeply worried the Spanish establishment and it has created great hope in Basque society. 

The days following the protest have seen nationalist politicians talking once again about the political nature of the arrests. According to them the Spanish authorities wanted to prevent the Basque pro-independence movement from developping a new strategy based on exclusively political and democratic means . That’s why most Basque nationalist parties and trade unions have extensively spoken in recent days about the need to build a united strategy to confront the Spanish state in political terms. Some discussion documents have been also produced and the debate is already under way.

The pro-independence left welcomed the positive reactions after the arrests and released a statement drawing some conclusions: the loss of legitimacy by the Spanish state and its repressive measures, the social demand for the Basque pro-independence left to be able to take part in politics, the existence of conditions to go further towards a democratic scenario and the leadership showed by the pro-independence left when it launched a strategic proposal for debate among its grassroots and society.  

This new agenda has created anger and frustration among the Spanish authorities. In the weeks before the arrests the Spanish Interior Minister met with Basque nationalist parties and media to ask them to support his strategy against the pro-independence left. 

Some reports say that days before the arrests Arnaldo Otegi, Batasuna’s spokesperson, met in London with international mediators, who took part in the negotiation process until 2007, to explain to them the Basque pro-independence left’s new strategy. Otegi also told them they expected to be arrested when it was launched. 

The arrests of the pro-independence leadership have become a boomerang against the Spanish authorities and their strategies and has strengthened Basque nationalist unity and international support. 

Basque activists indicted in different political cases held a press conference last week to express their hope that the 37,000-strong demonstration will lead to more common initiatives to stop Spanish repression and to support civil and political rights. They said it’s time for Basque society to denounce and respond to the permanent attacks against the Basque Country. They reminded those present that more political trials like those against the Basque councillors national institution Udalbiltza, dozens of pro-independence youth activists and the Basque language newspaper editorial team will begin in coming weeks.

-Thousands demand official recognition for Basque language in the north.
More than 5,000 people rallied in the northern Basque town of Baiona to ask the French authorities for legal recognition of the Basque language. Basque is not official in the north of the Basque Country despite the huge popular support due to the French government’s hard line against languages other than French within the state. 

Politicians of all backgrounds took part in the demonstration. Among them were the Region’s General Councillor and French right-wing party RPR’s spokesperson Max Brisson, French Socialist Party and Green Party’s local branches’ senior members, mayors and councillors...Among all of them Basque nationalists were a majority. 

Speakers at the end of the rally told the French authorities “they won’t put the Basques in a museum’s cage. The Basque language needs official status."

-United Nations against arbitrary political imprisonments.

Last week the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions spoke out about the case of Batasuna’s spokesperson Karmelo Landa. He was arrested and imprisoned, accused of being a member of the outlawed Batasuna party. 

According to the report Landa was badly treated after his arrest and humiliated in prison. The report claims his detention and imprisonment are absolutely arbitrary. The UN working group considers that mere political activism is not an offence and that the Spanish authorities are breaching numerous international human and civil rights such as the right to a fair trial, freedom of speech and association. They also asked the Spanish authorities to immediately release Landa. 

The Spanish authorities have once again disobeyed United Nations recommendations. 

The Basque Human Rights Watch Behatokia welcomed the report and said it could apply to any other of the dozens of Basque political and social activists imprisoned.

-Widespread support for Basque prisoners’ repatriation.
More than 2,500 people have already signed a petition launched by the Basque prisoners’ relatives’s association Etxerat to demand the repatriation of their loved ones.   

Last Saturday a massive press conference was held outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to launch the petition. Among the dozens of people who were showing support for the demand at the press conference were well known political, cultural and social activists, writers, journalists...etc. 

Speakers at the press conference spoke against the criminalisation campaign launched by the Spanish authorities and media against Etxerat.  

The petition called Elkartasun Uholdea (Solidarity Flood) demands the repatriation of Basque prisoners and the recognition of all their rights. 

Last week former Basque political prisoner Josetxo Otegi was handed over to the Spanish police by French authorities. He had been on hunger strike for more than two weeks to protest against this illegal practice and the risk of being tortured. He was finally released and was welcomed in his home town of Donostia/San Sebastian. 

Also last week 40 councillors tried to meet the French government’s secretary of state in Baiona. They wanted to ask him anout the whereabouts of former Basque political prisoner Jon Anza who went missing six months ago. The French official refused to meet the people’s representatives and they handed over a letter denouncing the French authorities’ lack of interest in finding out what happened and their complicity in the disappearance.


29 October 2009


South African international mediator Brian Currin confirms and commends Batasuna's new political initiative and ask others to back it. He assures the suggested democratic process would get international support.

21 October 2009


Basque Info 21/10/09
• Forceful response to attack against the Basque pro-independence movement.
• Another sucessful display of support to the Basque language.
• Largest ever demonstration against High Speed Train.
• More political trials and more arrests.

-Forceful response to attack against the Basque pro-independence movement.

On Tuesday 13 October, 10 prominent activists, including Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi and former general secretary of the LAB trade union Rafa Diez, were arrested and accused of trying to "reorganise the leadership" of the Basque pro-independence left movement. Five of the 10 were arrested in a raid on the national headquarters of the LAB union in Donostia.

On Friday Judge Baltasar Garzon sent Otegi, Diez and three others to jail, accused of "membership of a terrorist organisation" and of trying to reconstitute the pro-independence Batasuna party on the "orders of ETA". Batasuna was outlawed in 2003.

Hundreds of people took to the streets and students organised strikes in the aftermath of the arrests.

A massive protest was held on Saturday 17 October in Donostia/San Sebastian to protest against the Spanish government's new wave of arrests against the Basque pro-independence movement.

More than 37,000 Basques protested against the arrests under the slogan "For liberty, all rights for all” in a very significant demonstration of unity among Basque society. The demonstration had been called by the majority of trade unions and supported by all Basque nationalist and progressive political parties.
The demonstration was the largest in the Basque Country in many years and even the pro-Spanish media had to recognise the huge success.

Statements of support also came from across the world like the World Federation of Trade Unions and the European Free Alliance. In Ireland, Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún and the Irish Basque Solidarity Committees cqalled for an end to such repression and the immediate release of those arrested and told the Spanish government they need to engage in dialogue with those they seek to demonise and criminalise. “This is the only way to reach a lasting settlement in the Basque Country” they concluded.

The Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee organised a protest outside the GPO on Sunday.

Batasuna responded to the arrests by saying: "The aim of these arrests is to stop political initiatives that the Basque pro-independence movement was due to activate - political initiatives to resolve the ongoing conflict and to create a democratic scenario for the Basque Country."

On Monday 19 the Basque pro-independence newspaper Gara published extracts from a 36-page debate document presented for discussion among the grass roots by Batasuna’s leadership. This discussion and its practical conclusions is what the Spanish government seems to fear and what they wanted to prevent with last week’s arrests.

In the document a new effective strategy is suggested. Batasuna’s leadership wants to promote a democratic process without any violence and external interference.

The latest arrests are part of the Spanish government's ongoing campaign of repression against political, social, labour and cultural organisations that are in favour of self-determination for the Basque Country. The central thesis of this criminalisation campaign, as formulated by Judge Garzon, is that “everything that surrounds ETA is ETA” , that is, any group or individual that shares ETA's goal of Basque independence, regardless of what methods they use, is part of ETA.

This process has often been led by politicians and the media but is given a 'democratic' cover and institutionalised by the Spanish courts through a series of judicial rulings initiated by Garzon in 1998.

The repression against all expressions of Basque nationalism has escalated dramatically during the summer, with the Madrid government working in concert with the Spanish chauvinist coalition government that took power in the south-west of the Basque Country in March.

-Another sucessful display of support to the Basque language.
Up to 100,000 people attended the annual day long festival to support the Basque language schools in the province of Navarre. This year’s edition was organised by the local school of Lakuntza with the slogan “Txikiak, handi” (The small ones are big).

Young and old came from across the Basque Country to enjoy lots of different activities like gigs, sport, food, street animation, workshops, cultural displays... 3,000 volunteers worked hard to make sure everything went well.

The money raised will help to build a new building for the Lakuntza Basque medium school.

These massive festivals are organised in each province of the Basque Country every year and become both a great way to fundraise for the vitally necessary Basque medium schools and to promote the Basque language.

Each year a different school organises the festival. It takes around 300 volunteers working for two years to organise it.

-Largest ever demonstration against High Speed Train.

12,000 people demonstrated in Baiona in the north of the Basque Country last Saturday against the construction of a new High Speed Train railway.

Over the last few years different plans to build High Speed Train railways across the Basque Country have been opposed by large sections of Basque society with the pro-independence left movement at the core of the protest campaigns.

ETA has also intervened with small bombs and the killing of a main contractor.

The High Speed Train would put the Basque Country’s future at risk due to the environmental destruction and huge consumption of energy and public funds.

-More political trials and more arrests.
Last Friday seven members of the Pro-Amnesty movement were arrested and taken to prison to fulfil the remaining sentences imposed against them by the Spanish Supreme Court for their political work against repression and in favour of the Basque political prisoners. They had been waiting for the outcome of their appeal.

Another 13 members of the movement were already in jail after all of them were sentenced to between 8 and 10 years in prison. Basque political prisoners do their time to the full.

The hard sentence has been understood within a context of political repression aimed to weaken the pro-independence movement and prevent new political developments that could take the Basque Country to a new scenario of peace and democracy.

Last week the first of a long list of trials began against alleged members of Segi, the pro-independence youth organisation. Over the last two years 16 police operations were launched in different parts of the Basque Country and 123 local youth activists were arrested, of whom 69 reported being tortured and 91 were imprisoned. All of them were well known youth movement activists in their towns involved in cultural, political and social public work.

Demonstrations, fasts, strikes, massive press conferences...have been organised recently to denounce these show trials and support the youth.

Two alleged ETA members were arrested by the French police on Monday 19 in Britanny. The Spanish media portrayed them as members of the ETA’s political office and tried to make conections with last week arrests of 10 prominent pro-independence activists.

16 October 2009



14TH October 2009

Yesterday afternoon, 13th October, the Police invaded the national headquarters of the LAB trade union and arrested five activists of the Basque pro-Independence Left, among them the ex-General Secretary of LAB, Rafael Diez Usabiaga. This was all within a police operation in which a total of ten people have been detained.
This attack seeks to criminalise political and trade union work within the Basque Country.

From the Headquarters of LAB we rededicate ourselves to the trade union struggle in defence of the Basque working class and in the Right which our nation has to decide its own future. Our best response is to continue working and in struggle.
Alongside this message we send a communication directed at all trade union centres and fraternal organisations.

• We seek the setting free with immediate effect of our brother, Rafael Diez Usabiaga, ex-Secretary General of LAB, as well as of all the other arrested people.
• We also denounce at the same time the attack on our headquarters in Donostia/ San Sebastian and demand that there be no future attack on our headquarters.
• We call for support for the mobilisations that will take place in the coming days in the Basque Country to protest these actions.
• We seek solidarity from all trade unions of the class across the world and we ask them to send us their messages of solidarity to the following electronic address: nazioartea@labsindikatua.org

14 October 2009


Listen to Basque Info reports and interviews on the last Spanish attack against the Basque pro-independence left. 10 prominent activists were arrested yesterday and they have been acussed of reorganising the movement's political leadership to try to stand in next elections.

8 October 2009


You can listen to this week's Basque Info including the main news of the week and an interview with political analyst Inaki Soto:

Basque Info 6/10/09
• First hearing against Basque political exile Arturo “Benat” Villanueva held in Belfast.
• New report points at Spanish police for Jon Anza’s disappearance.
• Despite criminalisation Basque prisoners’ relatives will keep the solidarity flame alive.
• United Nations Special Rapporteur criticises Spanish authorities.
• Huge support for Basque language.

-First hearing against Basque political exile Arturo “Benat” Villanueva held in Belfast.

Last Monday a hearing was held in Belfast's high court against Basque political exile Arturo “Benat” Villanueva. The defendant’s barrister argued the case based on the lack of particularity in the Spanish European Arrest Warrant. No place, date or degree of participation is specified in the warrant and that should be enough to turn it down. The nature of the warrant strengthens the political character of it and the lack of arguments for the extradition.

45 people held a support rally outside the court buildings. Supporters heard from Andersonstown Sinn Féin representative and newly co-opted Belfast City Councillor Caoimhín Mac Giolla Mhín, who has been involved in solidarity work with the Basque Country for many years.

Speaking at the event, Mr Mac Giolla Mhín said: “The Spanish government is intensifying its campaign of criminalisation against a wide range of peaceful political, cultural and youth organisations that support independence for the Basque Country.

“We can see the impact of this campaign here in Belfast, where the Spanish authorities are pursuing Iñaki de Juana and Arturo Beñat Villanueva solely for their political ideas and not for any criminal activity.

“Sinn Féin support the petition against the extradition attempts. We demand that the Spanish government respects the fundamental human, civil and political rights of the Basque people as laid out in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and that it ends its campaign of criminalisation against the Basque pro-independence movement.

“We support the human right of Iñaki and Beñat not to be persecuted by the Spanish government for their political opinions.

“We call on the British government to immediately reject the extradition requests and to refuse to collaborate with the Spanish government in this political persecution.

“And we fully support the right of Iñaki de Juana and Arturo Beñat Villanueva to live freely in Ireland.”

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún also showed her support.

The judge will take a decision in coming days. If he doesn’t agree with the defendant’s arguments a full hearing will be called.

The Campaign is calling another protest for when Iñaki de Juana’s hearing begins in November.

-New report points at Spanish police for Jon Anza’s disappearance.
ETA militant Jon Anza went missing on the 18th of April. Since then his organisation and his family have claimed he was probably kidnapped and killed by Spanish security forces. For the last 6 months the Basque Country has seen demonstrations and posters flooding the streets asking for Jon’s whereabouts while the mass media and politicians remained silent.

Last week Basque newspaper Gara revealed that according to trusted sources Jon Anza would have been dragged off a train going to the southern French city of Toulouse by Spanish police and then taken for interrogation. Jon, who was very ill and almost blind at the time, would have been killed by the Spanish police during the questioning. Then he’d have been buried in some unknown place in France. The degree of the French authorities' participation, if any, is also unknown.

Another four Basque pro-independence activists have been kidnapped, interrogated, threatened and even some tortured by some sort of Spanish para-police forces during 2009.

Immediately after the new report was published Baiona’s general prosecutor called a press conference and said she was following the case very closely and was ready to take into account any new evidence surrounding the case. In contrast with the great interest shown by northern Basque and French media the main media in the southern Basque Country and Spain as well as the politicians kept silent after the new report emerged.

Many of Jon Anza’s friends held a press conference and denounced the establishment’s silence and the lack of investigation around Jon’s disappearance. They said an authoritarian state has set up a true state of exception in the Basque Country. They called on the Basque people to rally against the dirty war and for a democratic solution to the conflict on the 12th of October, the Spanish national day, in all Basque southern capitals.

-Despite criminalisation Basque prisoners’ relatives will keep the solidarity flame alive.
Spanish media and politicians have recently suggested the Basque political prisoners’ relatives association Etxerat should be banned. At a press conference last week Etxerat’s spokespeople said their association is made up of people coming from all political backgrounds in the Basque Country. They said they were forced to organise themselves to denounce the government’s brutal policies against their relatives in jail and the cruel dispersal policy that forces families to travel hundreds of miles to visit them.

Despite the criminalisation campaign against them they said that while the criminal prison policies are implemented and their relatives’ rights are denied they’ll keep the love and solidarity candle lit.

At another press conference in Irunea/Pamplona’s main square one hundred people who have been arrested and indicted for showing their public support to the 741 Basque political prisoners said that nowadays people are being arrested for things that weren’t an offence during the Franco regime. They said that for any prisoners’ picture the police takes away they will replace it with one hundred.
Over the last weekend Basque Region’s Interior Minister’s house appeared covered with dozens of Basque political prisoners’ pictures.

370 people gathered in the village of Errezil to show support to their local political prisoner Maritxu Uzkudun who has recently seen her sentence extended for another 12 years. According to the law she should have been released last August after 18 years in jail but due to the new measures imposed by the Spanish government the tribunals are prolonging Basque prisoners' sentences, implementing an effective and anti-constitutional life sentence.

A Basque prisoner’s friend suffered an accident last weekend on his way to a jail visit. As a consequence the car was completely destroyed. Accidents like this and even more serious happen every weekend when thousands of people travel from the Basque Country for hundreds of miles to visit their loved ones in jail. 16 relatives and friends have been killed during the last 20 years in this way. The Spanish authorities dispersal policy is an illegal added punishment against the Basque prisoners’ relatives and friends. The 741 Basque political prisoners are scattered in 82 jails across France and Spain.

-United Nations Special Rapporteur criticises Spanish authorities.
United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Martin Scheinin delivered a conference in Bilbao last week. In 2008 he published a report where he criticised the Spanish government’s Parties’ Law, the Basque prisoners’ dispersal policy and the incommunicado detention period.

During his conference he told the audience the Spanish government didn’t follow his recomendations. Scheinin repeated his arguments against the use of the terrorism offence definition being extended to political conducts and organisations.
He shared the panel with the Basque Autonomous Region’s Interior Minister and he said he didn’t think it was right to take down prisoners’ pictures.

-Huge support for Basque language.

More than 100,000 people attended the annual Gipuzkoa province’s Basque language schools’ festival in Donostia/San Sebastian last Sunday.
The six-kilometre circuit was flooded with the huge crowed and sometimes it was overwhelmed. Six different rest areas were organised where the participants could enjoy food, drinks, street animation, workshops, clowns, live music and more.
Once again the Basque people showed their support to the national language and the money raised will help to build new premises for this year’s organiser school.
Annual festivals of this kind are organised in each of the Basque provinces with similar success.

1 October 2009


Basque Info 29/09/09

• ETA shows total will for a democratic solution.
• Dead volunteers remembered across the country despite prohibitions.
• 25 Spanish fascist attacks claimed while authorities keep silent.
• Tribunal allows the display of Basque political prisoners pictures.
• Prisoners and extraditions.

-ETA shows total will for a democratic solution.

Last Sunday the Basque pro-independence armed organization ETA released the traditional Gudari Eguna or Basque Soldier’s Day’s statement. In it, ETA announces the internal debate started in May has already finished.

ETA reaffirms its commitment to continue with the armed struggle while the Basque Country’s enemies continue with repression and denial. At the same time ETA says their will has always been to find a political way out to the political conflict. ETA reasserts its will and total disposition to continue seeking this solution.

According to ETA in order to be able to reach a scenario of self-determination in the Basque Country a democratic process has to be developed. For that ETA understands that it’s absolutely necessary that all nationalists come together. ETA says it will promote that path.

ETA also addresses the Spanish authorities by saying “they repeat once and again that they won’t talk to ETA while the armed struggle exists. That’s not the conflict’s main knott! The Spanish authorities know that the problem is not ETA. They know that the problem is with the Basque people’s political will.” ETA goes on to say that by opening the doors to that will the conflict will be solved.

ETA asks the Spanish government: “In a scenario without ETA’s armed struggle, would you be ready to accept a process where all the Basques territories could decide their political future independence included?”

Finally ETA pays tribute to all dead volunteers and prisoners.

-Dead volunteers remembered across the country despite prohibitions.
On the 27th of September 1975 the Franco regime executed two ETA volunteers and three Spanish antifascist militants. Since then the 27th of September is the Basque Soldier’s Day. This year all commemorations were banned by the Spanish authorities and many of them had to take place in secret.

Hundreds of people attended the national commemoration in an unknown venue. Speakers thanked those who attended for the effort they put in. They came from across the country and had to take side roads and cross police check points to get there. The atmosphere was electric and the audience only stopped their chants and cheers when two dancers paid tribute to the dead volunteers and their families.

One of the speakers said that for the last 50 years the pro-independence left has been fighting to keep the Basque Country alive and that it’s needed to strength the pro-independence movement’s leadership and the struggle for independence and socialism. The speaker said the fight must keep on at this very important stage when new opportunities are unfolding. According to the speaker these opportunities appear now thanks to the sacrificies and efforts made by the dead volunteers and others.

Demonstrations and events to remember the dead volunteers were attacked by the police and there were many clashes with pro-independence activists. Six of them were arrested in Donostia/San Sebastian. In the same city but during the morning a rally was organised to remember the 30th anniversary of the assasination of local pro-independence councillor Tomas Alba. The speakers criticised the city council’s attitude of ignoring this case of the dirty war while they pay tribute to the so called “terrorism victims”. In Arrasate they remembered the 25th anniversary of Pakito Arriaran’s death. He was an ETA militant and then he joined the FMLN guerrilla in El Salvador where he died in the frontline against the right wing dictatorship.

In Zarautz’s cemetery the Basque-Spanish police prevented the relatives of Txiki, one of the 1975 executed ETA volunteers from paying him the annual tribute. The volunteer’s 80 year-old mother, outraged and visibly nervous, asked the masked policemen why she couldn’t visit her son’s grave. She asked them: “are you so afraid of the dead?”. Txiki’s brother said this was the first time in 34 years they had to suffer the police’s harassment.

Despite all bannings, threats and attacks, more than 50 events and demonstrations took place across the Basque Country during the Basque Soldier’s Day to remember the dead volunteers.

One small bomb exploded outside a bank in the north of the Basque Country, another one at a Spanish Labour Party’s offices in Lemoa and another one outside a Basque-Spanish police man’s house.

-25 Spanish fascist attacks claimed while authorities keep silent.
Last Tuesday a Spanish fascist organization claimed responsability for 25 attacks in the Basque Country. We have reported these attacks in previous Basque Infos and they include attacks against Basque pro-independence bars and private properties, dead volunteers memorials and death threats.

These attacks have been ignored by the authorities and nobody has been arrested in relation to them.

The Basque pro-independence movement denounced the authorities’ hypocrisy and lack of interest and said these attacks are part of the Spanish repression wave including dirty war.

-Tribunal allows the display of Basque political prisoners pictures.
Last week the Basque regional Justice Tribunal released a decision which allows relatives and friends to display the Basque political prisoners’ pictures in three events in Arrasate. The Basque region’s government reacted with anger as well as the pro-Spanish parties. They now threaten the banning of Etxerat, the Basque political prisoners’ relatives association.

During the summer the Basque-Spanish police has attacked and harassed solidarity events, arrested and indicted people and have taken down pictures. Just last weekend four people were arrested for wearing stickers with Basque prisoners’ pictures.

Last week also the Gipuzkoa’s province’s parliament passed a motion against the attacks against Basque prisoners pictures.

-Prisoners and extraditions.
After 17 days on hunger strike Basque political prisoner Aintzane Orkolaga was finally handed over to the Spanish police by the French authorities. In the end she was released and went back home where friends and relatives gave her a warm welcome.

Basque political prisoner Belen Gonzalez had to be taken to hospital after suffering an internal hemoarrage. Her relatives have denounced the lack of information from the authorities and they expressed their concern about they way she’ll be treated.

Basque political exile Mikel Barrios saw his extradition warrant rejected by the French authorities after being arrested three months ago. The Spanish authorities acussed him of being member of the pro-independence organization Segi but didn’t produce any evidence.

Next Monday 5th of October another Basque political exile, Arturo “Benat” Villanueva will attend in Belfast the first hearing of the extradition case launched against him by the Spanish authorities. They also acussed him of being member of the pro-independence youth organizations Jarrai and Haika. The Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign has called a protest outside the court buildings at 2pm.