30 October 2009


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.


No comments: