26 November 2009

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Latest news and an interview about the police operation against the pro-independence youth movement.
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25 November 2009

Spanish police arrest 34 Basque pro-Independence youth activists.

In the early hours of yesterday, Tuesday, 34 Basque pro-Independence political activists were arrested and 92 properties were searched in an operation involving 650 Spanish policemen. The police tried to arrest another seven youths but they weren’t in their homes.

Last week the anti-repression organization Askatasuna warned that they believed a police operation was imminent in the Basque Country. Then, in the early hours of Tuesday 24, 34 well known social, political and cultural young activists were arrested in what was the largest police operation in decades. They are being held incommunicado despite the recent recomendations of the United Nations Committee Against Torture.

All of them have been accused of being members of the national and county-level leadership of the pro-independence left-wing youth organization Segi which was banned in 2005.

Just ten days ago the Basque pro-Independence Left held a press conference where 110 prominent members launched new proposals to resolve the conflict. In a historical move they commited to a "peaceful and democratic political process" (full declaration in English: http://www.ezkerabertzalea.info/irakurri.php?id=2600). The declaration was welcomed by Basque nationalist and progressive forces and criminalized by the pro-Spanish parties and media.

On October 13 six prominent pro-Independence Left leaders, among them spokesperson Arnaldo Otegi, were arrested and imprisoned.

Most political parties and trade unions in the Basque Country have seen these arrests as a response to the new political initiative. The pro-Independence Left has said these attacks only confirm the Spanish state's weakness and its fear of politics. According to the pro-Independence Left it's in the political arena where the state is weakest and that's where the confrontation has to be moved to. At the same time the Spanish state, with these arrests and others which might follow, intends on the one hand to prevent any change of estrategy by the pro-Independence Left and, on the other, to weaken the engine of change.

After months of debates and events at local level a national day had been called for this coming Saturday in Zestoa to reorganise and strengthen the broad Basque youth movement. The arrests come to prevent this from happening. Other youth organizations have called for a response to the attack by taking part in that very important day.

Dozens of protests took place in towns, schools and universities across the country and more protests are expected to be organised in days to come.

The Irish Basque Solidarity Committees called to show support for the democratic process and to stop repression. Picket lines have been organised on Saturday 28th. 
2.30pm Belfast (outside Cultúrlann)
12pm Dublin (GPO)  

United Nations call upon Spanish Government to end torture.

Last week the United Nations Committee against Torture released a report after examining the Spanish state’s practice. After persistent ignoring of the international institution’s recomendations the conclusions couldn’t be any other way than to ask the Spanish authorities to end the incommunicado regime and to criticise the light penalties imposed on those found guilty of torture.

The Committee says in the report that “once again we have to express our concern – a concern shared by all the relevant regional and international human rights protection bodies - about the incommunicado regime used by the Spanish state in the terrorism offences, which could go up to 13 days. This regime breaches all the protections typical of a State of Law against ill-treatement and torture.”

Last week the Director of the Spanish branch of Amnesty International met with Navarre Parliament MPs to tell them it’s time to recognise the existence of torture and to implement measures to make it disappear. The protests of Spanish unionist representatives engendered a powerful response from the AI Director who said: When we release human rights abuses reports about China everybody respects AI’s stand. Why is the opposite here?”.

Commemorations of Basque pro-Independence Left’s leaders murdered by the Spanish state.

25 and 20 years ago respectively on November 20th Basque pro-Independence Left’s leaders Santi Brouard and Josu Muguruza were assassinated by Spanish death squads. Santi was murdered in the pediatric nursery where he worked  and Josu in a hotel in Madrid where he was to attend the first session of the Spanish Congress to which  he had been elected.  Josu and other Herri Batasuna elected MPs were going to use their turn to speak  to launch a peace proposal.

Both leaders were very much respected and loved and proof of that was in the very succesful events organised during the weekend in the Basque Country to commemorate their lifes and political legacy. On Friday morning the police harassed the commemoration event and hundreds packed a handball court that evening in Bilbao for a very moving rally. Sinn Féin MLA Paul Maskey also took part and expressed the Republican movement’s solidarity and support for the democratic process.

A speaker said the Basque pro-Independence Left was born to win and that it’s time to collect the fruits of many years of struggle and to gather forces to achieve the democratic framework.

Judge rules against extradition

Beñat leaving court

‘Charges are politically-motivated and must be dropped’

Judge Tom Burgess ruled last Wednesday that the Spanish authorities’ extradition warrant against Belfast-based Basque activist Artruro "Beñat" Villanueva was “invalid”. The judge rejected the warrant, which claimed that Mr Villanueva was a “member of an illegal terrorist organisation” (Jarrai) from 1994-2000, on the grounds that it did not include any particularities or details of specific offences alleged to have been committed.

The judge further ruled that there was no specific evidence cited in the warrant that proved Mr Villanueva’s membership of the organisation.
On Friday the Prosecution decided to appeal the ruling.

Welcoming the judgment today, Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign spokesperson Kevin Morrison said: “The judge’s ruling demonstrates the validity in the message that the Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign has been putting forward – that the extradition warrant against Benat was politically motivated.

“We urge the British government to acknowledge, after today’s ruling, that the cases against both Basque men being sought by the Spanish government are flawed and politically-motivated. The extradition request against Iñaki de Juana must also now be rejected.”

Arturo “Beñat” Villanueva

Mr. Morrison went on to say: “There were several fundamental flaws in the arrest warrant against Beñat, and the lack of particularity – the fact that there are no exact dates, locations or details of participation in any offence by Beñat – made the warrant invalid in the judge’s view.”

“While Jarrai is a solely political organisation, it was declared illegal by the Spanish authorities in 2005 and categorised as a “terrorist” organisation by Spain’s Supreme Court in 2007.

“During the period of Beñat’s alleged membership of Jarrai, the organisation was legal. The non-retrospectivity legal principle was clearly being breached by the terms of the warrant for his extradition.

“Beñat is being targeted by the Spanish authorities for carrying out political, public and peaceful youth work in the Basque Country. His only ‘crime’ was his political ideas in favour of Basque independence and socialism.”
‘Reject warrant against Iñaki de Juana’

Mr. Morrison continued: “The Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign will continue to oppose the ongoing extradition process against Iñaki de Juana, who is also being targeted on spurious grounds by the Spanish government.

“We believe both men are clearly being persecuted solely for their political opinions, not for any criminal activity. We believe they will not receive a fair hearing with the Spanish judicial system and that they face the risk of torture.

“We urge the Spanish government to rethink its criminalisation strategy against the pro-Independence movement, particularly at this moment in time when significant initiatives towards reviving the peace process have been taken this week by the Basque Abertzale Left movement.

“We urge the British government to acknowledge, after today’s ruling, that the cases against both men are flawed and politically-motivated, and to reject the extradition request against Iñaki de Juana.”

23 November 2009

The pro-independence left commits itself to a peaceful and democratic process.

110 prominent pro-independence left activists were present last Saturday at a press conference in Altsasu in the Basque Country. There is no doubt it was an extraordinary event that strenghtened the importance of the ocassion.

A three-page declaration entitled “A first step in the democratic process: principles and intentions of the nationalist Left” was read to the gathered media. In it, the pro-Independence Left declares without reservations "support for a peaceful, political and democratic process in order to achieve an inclusive democracy, where the Basque people, freely and without any intimidation of any kind, will be able to decide their future.”

The document puts together and summarises numerous ideas, statements, press releases, interviews that have been carried out during the past year including Batasuna’s debate document launched a month agoHowever, it also includes new commitments like the acceptance of the Mitchell principles which opened the path to the peace process in Ireland.

The pro-independence left sets the overcoming of the armed conflict as a priority. According to them this conflict has been perpetuated by the current political framework which divides the Basque Country and denies its  people their rights.

The declaration states that “both with correct decisions and errors the pro-Independence Left has brought the liberation process to the phase of political change. Now, the task is to make it irreversible.” For this to happen “new strategies, new political alliances and new tools” are required.

They acknowledge that “the objectives to reach in this new phase are the national recognition of the Basque Country and the right to self-determination and for that it’s necessary to increase the accumulation of forces and to move the confrontation with the Spanish and French states to the front where they are weaker that is the political front. The basic instrument for the new political phase is the Democratic Process.”

Spain’s Minister of the Interior and the pro-Spanish forces and media said there was nothing new in the statement and tried to criminalise it as usual.

The Basque parties welcomed the statement as positive and asked ETA to make a move.

More support messages came from abroad also. Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: “Their unconditional declaration of support for a peaceful, political and democratic process should be welcomed by the friends of the Basque and Spanish peoples, by all friends of the quest for peace in the Spanish State. This political initiative needs space to bloom. I reiterate my call in recent days for all involved to create the space.” Mr. Adams was refering to a previous statement last Friday in which he asked for the immediate release of Arnaldo Otegi and the other Batasuna leaders imprisoned a month ago.

International mediator Brian Currin also welcomed the declaration from Venice where he was attending along with Sinn Féin, Batasuna and the Kurdish Workers Party’s represenatives conference on democratic and peace processes.

Prisoners’ relatives ask for a “solidarity flood”.

Hundreds of Basque political prisoners’ relatives met last Sunday for their association’s annual conference. At the end of it they held a giant press conference supported by different parties, trade unions and community groups.

The speakers said this has been a very hard year for them and their relatives as conditions in the jails are deteriorating. Prisoners’ rights are breached on a daily basis: dispersal policy, life sentences, ill prisoners kept in jail, solitary confinment and isolation, threats, insults, beatings, communication obstacles, continuous and arbitrary prison transfers without notice ...

Even relatives and friends are harassed and criminalised and are forced to put their lives at risk in long road trips for a visit which then lasts only 40 minutes.

For that reason the relatives appealed to Basque society and especially to political parties, trade unions and social organizations to make a “solidarity flood” together in order to put an end to all the attacks and bring the prisoners home. As a first step they called for a national demonstration on the 2nd of January.

The Basque Political Prisoners’ Collective also released a statement over the weekend to protest against the new personal search measures imposed upon their relatives and friends before visits. The Collective said that the Spanish Government has an incredible lack of respect for dignity and that all these abuses are not going unnoticed by Basque society or the international community.

In fact just last week the Spanish Government took the first steps to reform the current Penal Code so that ex-prisoners will be under permanent control for up to 10 years after they have their sentences to the full. Other measures include the creation of more types of “terrorist offences”.

Campaign for northern Basque Country’s recognition getting stronger.

More than 400 people gathered at a rally in Azkaine’s handball court, near Baiona, last Saturday, organised by the Group in Favour of Autonomy.

After years of French scorning the Basque people’s demands a strong campaign for Basque institutions in the north begun. In the 80’s the armed organization Iparretarrak led the way and in the 90’s local mayors and councillors organised and and launched new campaigns. Huge demonstration and signature collections showed the support of the majority of people and political representatives across the board.

Now the French state is in the middle of a territorial administrative zone reorganization but continues to ignore the Basque people’s demands.

It’s in this context that different Basque nationalist forces are coming together to ask for recognition of the Basque Country’s own institutions and the right to decide their own future.
At last Saturday’s rally speakers told the audience that thanks to their hard struggle they had been able to keep the Basque Country alive and that through struggle they would make their dream a reality.

Basque extradition would be ‘grossly inhumane’

As Iñaki de Juana’a two-day extradition hearing began in Belfast on November 12, supporters rallied in a demonstration called by the Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign.

Michael Culbert, director of the ex-prisoners’ group Coiste na n-Iarchimí, addressed the supporters, who included republican ex-prisoners, local Sinn Féin councillors, members of Belfast’s Basque community and others.

“The case against Iñaki is motivated by vindictiveness on the part of the Spanish government despite the fact that there is no evidence against him. The charges are spurious and absurd,” Culbert said at the rally.

The Spanish authorities are trying to extradite the former prisoner and hunger-striker, who served 21 years in Spanish jails, from Belfast, where he moved immediately after his release in August last year, on charges of “glorifying terrorism”.

The arrest warrant is based on a single media report of somebody at a rally in Donostia/San Sebastian last August, which was celebrating de Juana’s release from prison, reading a letter that used the popular Basque expression “Aurrera bolie” (“Kick the ball forward”). The Spanish authorities claim this phrase constitutes a call for the continuation of armed struggle.

De Juana was not present at this rally and denies writing such a letter, which Spanish police admit they cannot produce.

Judge Tom Burgess ruled in March that “glorifying terrorism” was an extraditable offence that had an equivalent under the British Terrorism Act 2006. He said that he did not have to study the quality of the evidence against de Juana, as that was a matter for the Spanish courts.

The defence team in last week’s hearing argued two main points: that the Spanish authorities were knowingly abusing the extradition process, and that extradition would cause a disproportionate threat to de Juana’s health.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, defending, said he believed the Spanish authorities were abusing the extradition process because they knew they did not have any evidence against de Juana, and that the case was politically motivated.

He explained that while the defence had repeatedly requested the case files of evidence against his client, the Spanish authorities had refused to provide any such information or respond to the requests.

Referring to an article published in the pro-Spanish daily newspaper El Pais, which said the prosecution’s case against de Juana “was like trying to build the Titanic with toothpicks”, Fitzgerald said the description was accurate.

“This is an absurdity, but the fact it’s an absurdity doesn’t make it harmless. It makes it dangerous given the consequences,” he said.

The defence also pointed out that the involvement of the Spanish Association of Victims of Terrorism organisation in all stages of the case against de Juana, –from urging it to be launched, to working closely with the prosecution and continuing to monitor the case – reflected the lack of independence on the part of the prosecution.

While the judge had ruled in March that it was not his role to examine the evidence against de Juana, the defence argued that the total lack of evidence of a crime from the prosecution was itself evidence that the charges were politically motivated.

‘Grossly inhumane’
Senior university lecturer at Cambridge University, Dr Adrian Grounds, an expert on the impact of imprisonment on the psychological health of detainees, testified that in his independent opinion, de Juana would face a very serious deterioration in his health and likely, if not certain, death through hunger strike if he was extradited.

Dr Grounds, who had interviewed de Juana for eight hours, said that de Juana’s previous experiences in Spanish prisons had been extremely traumatic and that while he was “a very strong, ideologically committed and resilient person”, his prison experience had left him suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and absolute exhaustion.

De Juana was subjected to repeated beatings while in jail, and Dr Grounds cited the abuses carried out against Basque political prisoners documented by the UN’s Committee on the Prevention of Torture as well as reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

He was held in solitary confinement for more than 17 years of his total 21 years in jail. When protesting against attempts to lengthen his term after he had completed his 19-year sentence, de Juana endured first a 63-day hunger strike and then a 115-day strike during which he was force-fed while shackled to his hospital bed.

Dr Grounds said that to return him to the Spanish prison system would very likely result in de Juana going on a hunger strike to the death. He said that in his opinion, this would partly be a political act of protest, but it would also reflect de Juana’s inability to return to the conditions that had caused his exhaustion and PTSD.

Fitzgerald said: “Would it now be inhumane to put him back in custody on the basis of what someone says someone read out at a rally though no-one has the document? We say it's grossly disproportionate and inhumane to do that.”

12 November 2009

Amnesty International denounces police impunity.

Last week AI published a report where it highlighted the impunity of Spanish police in torture cases. The damming report says there is no political will to put measures in place to prevent torture. AI describes the current system of investigation and punishment of torture as a “black hole”.

The report suggests several procedures and actions to the Spanish and Basque Autonomous Region’s governments to end torture. These include the creation of an independent body to investigate the complaints (up until now it’s the same police accused of the abuse who “investigate” the accusations), setting up video and audio systems in interrogation centres and ensuring that the police wear identification numbers or names on their uniforms.

For many years now AI has asked the Spanish authorities to stop torture and to end the incommunicado period during which it usually happens. The Spanish authorities have continuously ignored AI’s recommendations.

Just two weeks ago the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions spoke against the imprisonment of Batasuna’s spokesperson Professor Landa. The report was initially ignored by the Spanish government but last week judge Baltasar Garzon rejected it and accused the UN body of lack of information on the case.

Six months of illegitimate government in the Basque Autonomous Region.

Six months ago the Spanish Labour Party/PSOE took over the three western Basque provinces' regional parliament with the support of the Spanish Conservative Party/PP.

It was the end of 30 years of Basque Nationalist Party/PNV government. The change was possible as a result of the banning of the pro-independence left. In this way the political apartheid imposed by the Spanish authorities reached one of its objectives.

The same type of government is in place in the other Basque regional parliament of Navarre where the Spanish unionist right wing holds power thanks to the support of the Spanish Labour Party and the banning of the pro-independence left.
These strange coalitions show the nature of the state pact against the Basque people’s will for change and democracy.

During the first six months of the Basque Autonomous Region’s government political tension has increased with an extremely repressive summer against all displays of solidarity with political prisoners, the banning of demonstrations and the efforts to make Basque national symbols disappear from public places.

The latest controversy came about last week when the regional Education Minister expressed her aims to make all references to the Basque Country as a nation disappear from the curriculum. She went on to say that Basque language medium education was offensive for 80% of the population.

The objectives of the pro-Spanish political offensive are clear: to turn the three western Basque provinces into a “normal” Spanish region and to make the unionist vision of the region the “neutral” vision in opposition to the “biased” nationalist vision.

Weekend celebrations show the strength of Basque social movement.

Last Saturday thousands of young people took over the streets of Arrasate to celebrate the National Student’s Day. The day of events was organised by Ikasle Abertzaleak/Nationalist Students, the largest student organisation in the Basque Country with local groups in secondary schools and universities.

This year's event, organised under the slogan “Drawing the future”, saw debates during the morning around the capitalist and patriarchal system’s effects in education. In the afternoon there was lunch and a demonstration followed. At the end of it speakers from the Basque Country, the Catalan Countries and Ireland spoke about their different student struggles. The day ended with a music festival.

Also on Saturday the Basque international solidarity organization Askapena/Liberation organised its annual Internationalist Day. 300 people gathered in Altsasu for a day packed with events, with a special focus on solidarity with Palestine and the boycott campaign against Israel.

Last weekend also marked the 30th anniversary of the creation of Euskal Herrian Euskaraz/In the Basque Country in Basque. For the last three decades this grassroots organisation has been working hard in defence of, and to promote, the Basque language.

In a press conference they announced many events will be organised in coming months to celebrate the anniversary but more importantly to strengthen the organisation and the two fundamental axes of their work: denouncing and defending the movement against the attacks and the development of a strategy that will lead to a Basque Country that will live in Basque.

Last Saturday more than 1,000 members of the largest trade union Basque Workers Solidarity/ELA gathered in the south of Navarre to pay tribute to the more than 3,000 people executed by the Spanish fascist forces during the 1936-39 war in this Basque province. Among the executed were socialists, anarchists, communists, nationalists...and many ELA members also. This tribute is part of a broader process of recovering the historical memory set in place by many different grassroots organisations created over the past few years across the Basque Country.

Prisoners’ relatives harassed.

Last weekend many Basque political prisoners lost their right to visit their loved ones after refusing to submit to being searched by guards in dozens of Spanish jails. It seems like this is another step up by the Spanish authorities in the harassment relatives have to endure to visit the 742 Basque political prisoners. 
Friends and relatives have to travel hundreds of miles every weekend to visit them in 85 jails across France and Spain putting their lives at risk on the road. Two of them had to be taken to hospital last weekend and 16 have lost their lives during the past 20 years.  
Even the prisoners’ relatives association has been recently targeted in a criminalisation campaign by the Spanish authorities and media. 
Prisoners in different jails started protests against these new searching measures. 


4 November 2009


You can now listen to this week's Basque Info radio program whenever it suits you just by clicking here http://tinyurl.com/ygtkjla 30 minutes of news, music and an interview with Batasuna's representative in Brussels about the new political initiative.


Last Wednesday South African attorney and international mediator Brian
Currin addressed a conference in Donostia/San Sebastian. Expectations
were high due to the work Brian Currin has carried out in conflict
resolution in South Africa, Rwanda, Ireland and the Basque Country.

Brian Currin arriving to the conference.

Mr. Currin said he knew the Basque pro-independence left was involved
in a strategic debate and that he had been given details about a new
political initiative. He revealed that in July last year, Batasuna had
asked him to write a report on the anti-aparthied United Democratic
Front experience in South Africa. Then that strategy was discussed
between September and December.
During the conference he said he trusted the Basque pro-independence
left and he encouraged others to support the new political initiative.
He went on to say that he thought the initiative was praiseworthy and
that it has the potential to have a deep impact in the political
situation in the Basque Country. According to Mr. Currin, a democratic
process based on the new political initiative would receive
international support.
He began his speech by talking about the recent arrests of prominent
Basque pro-independence activists such as Batasuna spokesperson
Arnaldo Otegi. He said he was sure the Spanish government knew about
the new proposal and that with the arrests they wanted to prevent it
from being launched.
Mr. Currin said that the Basque pro-independence left should be
legalised and its members released from jail and that the democratic
process should be carried without violence.
The conference is available on line at:
During the same week veteran pro-independence leader Rufi Etxeberria
was extensively interviewed by the Basque newpaper Gara. He was
recently released on bail after two years in jail for his Batasuna
membership and then arrested the following week along with Arnaldo
Otegi and another eight prominent left nationalist activists just to
be released on bail once again.
In the interview he says “it’s time to collect the fruits of long
years of struggle and not to let them go.” Mr. Etxeberria thinks that
there are appropriate existing political and social conditions to
promote a democratic process and to achive a new democratic framework
in the Basque Country.
For that he considers that the pro-independence left has to reorganise
and strengthen and that it has to become legal. He also thinks a new
broad political and social pro-independence movement has to be created
to promote a democratic framework and at the same time to develop a
pro-independence strategy.
As a third step Mr. Etxeberria speaks of the need to build a popular
wall to stop all the repressive attacks and to demand the release of
all political prisoners.
Finally he says that the negotiation process has to be rebuilt taking
into account the experiences and contents of the last process and that
a Forum for a Democratic Solution should be put in place.
On Monday the pro-independence left decided to make the debate
document available online.  In a statement it said that they wanted
everybody to be able to know about it from the original source in a
way to defeat the Spanish authorities' efforts to prevent the new
political initiative and to overcome the ongoing media hysteria and
criminalisation campaign.

Last weekend the National Forum of Debate met at its annual
conference. More than 200 delegates of different organisations took
part and evaluated the work done during the past year. The Forum was
created in 2003 to make a national analysis of the Basque Country’s
political, economic, social and cultural situation and to promote
national building strategies. This year’s conference decided to
establish a commission to promote a common and plural pro-independence
space for citizens to be active in the process of political change.


Last week five young activists were judged in the Spanish National
Court accused of being members of the Basque pro-independence youth
organisations Jarrai, Haika and Segi. Two of them were transfered from
jail. The other three had been previously released on bail.
Nevertheless they were imprisoned at the end of the trial while
awaiting sentence.

The five youth activists in the Spanish Special Court.

All of them had been on the run when another 31 activists were tried
in 2005, 23 of whom were sentenced to six years in prison in 2007. The
Spanish authorities sought the extradition of four more but French
authorities rejected three of them on the basis of political
persecution and lack of evidence. The fourth is Arturo “Benat”
Villanueva who is currently fighting extradition from Ireland.

Eight young activists were sentence to six years in prison last week
for being members of the outlawed youth political organisation Segi.
115 more are awaiting trial.

During the trials all of them defended their right to do political
work in favour of independence and stated that the trials were


Basque solicitor Joseba Agudo was arrested last week by French police
after the Spanish police searched his offices. He works mainly with
Basque political refugees and has been accused of working for ETA.
South American solicitors protested the arrest and accused Spain of
being an inquisitorial state.
An alleged ETA member was arrested in France and later imprisoned last week.
Basque political prisoner Amaia Urizar was released after doing 5
years in jail. She was arrested when she was 22 years old and her
testimonies of torture shocked Basque society. She explained how she
was raped by the Spanish police with a gun and how she had to endure
long sessions of questioning while being suffocated in a bath.

Amaia Urizar in the Spanish National Court.

Five people were arrested and three of them imprisoned last week
accused of being members of a Spanish fascist group in Irunea/Pamplona
and were accused of different attacks on pro-indepdendence properties
and activists over the last six months. Basque pro-independence left
activists and organisations exposed the hypocritical attitude of the
pro-Spanish establishment as the fascists weren’t treated the way
pro-independence activists are treated when arrested under the
anti-terrorist law. They said the police operation followed a
previously writen script and that it doesn’t intend to resolve or stop
the dirty war.