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.