2 December 2009

20,000 people support the youth movement.

In the early hours of Tuesday November 24, 35 Basque pro-independence youth activists were arrested by 950 Spanish policemen in the largest police operation in decades. More than 100 premises were searched and seven more young weren’t in their homes at the time of the raids.

All of them were accused of being members of the leadership of Segi, the banned pro-independence and socialist youth organisation. Similar operations happened in 2001 and 2002 against the alleged leaderships of the youth movement and another 16 operations were carried out over the past two years against local groups of Segi. Hundreds of young people have been arrested, many tortured and most of them imprisoned for solely political work.

Protests were organised across the Basque Country during the week including school strikes. There were also protests in Ireland (Belfast, Dublin, Omagh, Lurgan, Strabane, Dungannon and Limerick).

The largest protest took place last Saturday in Bilbao with 20,430 people in attendance according to the Basque newspaper Gara. The rally was organised by the relatives of those arrested under the slogan “All projects, all rights” and it was supported by many youth groups and four Basque pro-independence parties.

Dozens of young people took to the stage at the end of the march to highlight the fact that all these police operations have been proved to be unable to destroy the Basque youth movement. They also stressed their determination to continue and make the youth movement even broader. In fact, those who took to the stage were taking part along hundreds more in a national weekend of events and discussions in Zestoa.

This was the culmination of months of debates at the local level among different youth groups with the objective of organising a broad front against the capitalist system and in favour of a democratic process in the Basque Country. The arrests obviously come at a very important time for both the youth movement and the Basque Country and are aimed at preventing emerging new political initiatives.

31 out of the 35 youth activists arrested were sent to prison after five days incommunicado. When they were able to see their lawyers in jail most of them reported torture and sexual abuse, mainly against girls. They were beaten on their testicles, forced to do physical exercise, suffocated with plastic bags, deprived of sleep, insulted, humiliated, even threatened with guns at their heads and girls were stripped while being touched and kissed by hooded policemen. There were even rape simulations.

With these last arrests the number of Basque political prisoners is at its highest level in 35 years with 762.

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