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.