6 December 2010

Basque Info 1/12/10

Basque Info 1/12/10

• New Basque Pro-Independence Left party’s basis presented
• France accepts the European arrest warrant against Aurore Martin, member of Batasuna.

New Basque Pro-Independence Left party’s basis presented

The Basque Pro-Independence Left will soon have an entirely new political formation, designed to accumulate forces to achieve independence and socialism and supported by activity carried out through exclusively political and democratic means. Its first step presented a powerful picture featuring nearly 300 activists in different fields of Basque endeavour.

The Pro-Independence Left took another essential step last Saturday to overcome the current deadlock. They held a press conference to display the political and organizational bases of their new project. They also announced that “soon" they will present the new organization’s. They added an important point: "This application will be prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Political Parties Law." They did so after making it clear that they still consider the law "undemocratic", and that it is part of the current reality "of imposition and denial" by the Spanish state which they seek to change with their political initiative.

The two pillars of the project are: an open democratic internal structure and way of working and activity carried out exclusively through peaceful and democratic methods. They stressed that the exclusive commitment to politics "should be firm and unequivocal, not subject to situational factors and tactical variables, and therefore must reject the use of violence or threat of its use for political objectives." On the horizon remain the historical objectives of the Pro-Independence Left: independence and socialism.

This impressive event in Iruñea/Pamplona fixed another objective to the new project of the Pro-Independence Left: that at this historical point it should work for a peaceful scenario, engaging in invigorating a process of dialogue and negotiation to resolve the conflict democratically. Those gathered to support this new project included youth, students, trade unionists, pro-amnesty activists...

Statement of the press conference in English:

France accepts the European arrest warrant against Aurore Martin, member of Batasuna.

In a move against Batasuna, the Pau Court last week gave the green light to a European arrest warrant against Batasuna representative Aurore Martin, on account of her participation in political events in the southern Basque towns of Iruñea/Pamplona and Agurain. The decision, which is not final, amazed her defense counseol, created concerns in the Pro-Independence Left and was rejected by the entire political spectrum of the northern Basque Country where Batasuna remains a legal political party though banned in the Spanish occupied southern Basque Country.

The judicial process initiated by the Spanish government and presented to the French state against Aurore Martin for being a member of Batasuna has taken another step forward. The Pau Court ruled in favour of implementing the arrest warrant. The decision is not final but, if ratified by the Court of Appeal, it would represent a major step by Paris and would constitute a serious precedent. Aurore Martin, 31, as all northern Basques do has "French nationality" and is being prosecuted solely for political activities, such as participation in two acts of the Pro-Independence Left in Iruñea/Pamplona and Agurain. In the process references are made to other appearances in Baiona or Uztaritze (northern Basque Country).

This ruling of the Pau Court has caused a visible political upheaval in the northern Basque Country because everyone understands the possible consequences in the near future. In addition there were many demands, from very different political backgrounds, that the judges reject the Spanish claim outright, which has not happened. Among the reactions must be highlighted that of the the local branch of the mainstream French Socialist Party (Labour). In a press release, they considered the verdict "unacceptable to us as democrats." It adds that it "deplores the proceedings of this court, whose very foundation has been perverted and brings into question the right of defence and individual freedom. It doesn’t reflect the will to fight terrorism as envisaged in the European arrest warrant process, but seeks instead to criminalize democratic political action. "

10 November 2010

Basque Info 10/11/10

• International campaign for the immediate release of Arnaldo Otegi launched
• Pro-Independence alliances strengthened
• Prisoner’s relatives demand the end of the dispersal policy without delay

International campaign for the immediate release of Arnaldo Otegi launched

Last Friday more than 250 well-known people from different political backgrounds from the Basque Country, including politicians, trade unionists, writers, journalists, sports people and others, launched a petition to ask for the release of the Basque Pro-Independence leader Arnaldo Otegi.

He was arrested and imprisoned along another five Batasuna members one year ago when they were about to launch an internal debate within the Pro-Independence movement to discuss the future strategy.

The petition signatories think that there are no legal grounds to hold him and that his release could contribute to bring about a new peace scenario in the Basque Country.

On Saturday an international campaign for the release of the well-known politician was also presented.

This campaign was born during the World Social Forum of Sao Paulo, organised in Buenos Aires last August. The organisers said that Otegi is a “political prisoner" because "there is no other objective reason for his arrest than preventing him from working for his political ideas.”

In coming weeks they will hold an event in Madrid and before the end of the year they will meet with European left-wing parties to try to take this initiative to the European Parliament. They are committed to continuing to gather support "until the outcry forces the Spanish Government to release Otegi."

More than 600 international personalities have already signed the petition including USA former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

Meantime, this Thursday Arnaldo Otegi will be tried along with another two Pro-Independence leaders in the Spanish Special Court accused of “glorifying terrorism” for launching a peace proposal in front of 15,000 people at a rally in Donostia/San Sebastian exactly six years ago. That peace proposal led to the 2005-2007 failed negotiation process with the Spanish authorities.

At the same time and ironically enough, former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez admitted last Sunday in an extensive interview that, among other things, he could have blown up the entire ETA’s leadership in 1992 and that he also ordered the release of a Basque citizen kidnapped by the Spanish death squads. All political parties from the Spanish right wing to the Basque nationalists immediately accused him of being “Mister X”, the leader of the Dirty War against the Pro-Independence movement.

Although this is not the first time he publicly glorifies state terrorism, he has never been brought to court.

Pro-Independence alliances strengthened
Despite the criminalization campaign, which recently included a motion passed in the Spanish Senate against reaching agreements with Batasuna, and the hardening of the Parties’ Law to prevent them from taking part in elections, the broad pro-independence movement continues to gain momentum.

Last June the Pro-Independence Left signed a strategic agreement with the social-democratic nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity) to work together for a Basque progressive independent republic. Since then lot of work has been done and this week for example, conferences have been organised together across the Basque Country and even Argentina to promote that alliance and announce more steps for the near future. This includes a programme of 100 proposals for political, social and economic change.

Last Saturday the Basque pro-independence citizens network Independentistak held a historical meeting to organise and agree objectives for the coming years. This is the first time that pro-independence people from different political backgrounds came together in such a fashion. The network appointed a 46 person group as coordinators and aim at getting 500 local coordinators, 5,000 members, many more thousands of supporters, along with up to 100,000 Euros collected by 2012. The network will be based on a horizontal and democratic structure and will work away from political parties and elections.

Prisoner’s relatives demand the end of the dispersal policy without delay
Last Saturday the association of Basque political prisoners and escapees’ relatives Etxerat! (Back home!) organised their 10th national AGM. More than 700 relatives and friends took part.

They reaffirmed their commitment to continue working day and night until all their loved ones are back home despite the criminalization campaign and threats against them. They suspect they could be the next target for the Spanish repressive campaign. In order to show them support and warn of the imminent danger, representatives of different political parties and trade unions appeared along with them at a press conference last week.

Etxerat! said it’s time to end one of the darkest pages in Basque history by bringing to an end the dispersal policy applied by the Spanish and French states on more than 750 political prisoners and their families. The prisoners are currently scattered in more than 85 jails at hundreds of miles from home.

Basque Info podcast

Including the main news of the week and an interview with Basque solicitor Iratxe Urizar http://tinyurl.com/32bzmc9

8 October 2010

Basque Info 6/10/10

• Huge Demonstration for human, civil and political rights
• European HR Court condemns Spain for not investigating tortures
• New police operation
• New press statement of Brian Currin
• Basque political prisoner tries to commit suicide

Huge Demonstration for human, civil and political rights

Last Saturday 46,000 people took part in a demonstration in favour of human, political and civil rights in Bilbao. They also protested against the banning by the Spanish authorities of two previous marches, which had the same slogan.

The majority of Basque political parties and trade unions supported the demonstration, which was branded by some as the beginning of a new era in the Basque Country.

Some of the political leaders who attended the march stressed the importance of such popular mobilisations in order to put pressure on the Spanish government to make it desist from its negative attitude towards a democratic process.

Banners demanding the release of the recently arrested pro-independence activists could also be seen along the march. People shouted chants in favour of the Basque political prisoners and independence.

European Court of Human Rights condemns Spain for not investigating torture

The ECHR condemnation of Spain refers to the case of Basque citizen Mikel San Argimiro who was arrested, held incommunicado and tortured for five days by the Guardia Civil (militarised police corps) in 2002. The sentence orders Spain to pay 23,000 euros for failing to investigate the complaints of torture. The sentence is likely to establish a precedent in the matter because Spain almost systematically does not investigate claims of torture while in detention.

The forensic report in San Argimiro's torture case established that he had many serious injuries, which were dismissed.

The European tribunal cannot judge whether torture has taken place or not, because there is no investigation. However, it can judge that failing to investigate claims of torture is a serious fault and a breach of article 3 of the European Covenant on Human Rights which forbids torture.

There is a long list of similar cases involving Basques as victims. Next in line are the well-known cases of Unai Romano, whose photos with his face totally deformed by the beatings caused a tremendous impact, and Martxelo Otamendi, director of Basque language newspaper Egunkaria, which is one of the most aggravating cases of persecution against freedom of speech and linguistic diversity.

New police operation

Just a few hours after seven pro-independence activists belonging to the internationalist organisation Askapena were arrested three people were arrested and accused of forming an ETA unit in Villabona, near Donostia/San Sebastian. Explosives and weapons were said to be found by the police.

Five out of the seven Askapena members were sent to jail after several days in the hands of the police and two of the three alleged members were also imprisoned. Two of them denounced being brutally tortured while under the incommunicado regime.

During the week many protests were organised at the home towns of those arrested and there were also protests and solidarity events organised across the world to support Askapena and the arrested activists.

The leadership of the Basque pro-independence trade union LAB said at a press conference last week that they are being harassed and are under constant surveillance by the Spanish police. They demanded their right to do their job freely and demanded the Spanish authorities to change their repressive attitude and promote a democratic peace process.

Last Friday a Belfast judge dismissed the European Arrest Warrant against Basque activist Fermin Vila. He was arrested in Belfast last July following a Spanish request based on “terrorism charges”. He has been held in Maghaberry jail since then. The Spanish authorities have now produced two new warrants.

Around 100 people attended a solidarity and fundraising night to support Fermin Vila and Askapena in west Belfast on Friday. On Saturday 30 people took part in a five-a-side football tournament with the same aims.

New press statement from Brian Currin

International mediator Brian Currin announced last week: “Each one of the endorsers of the Brussels Declaration has been consulted on ETA’s recent statements and direct response to the Brussels Declaration. Their plea to ETA remains the same as it was when the Brussels Declaration was issued in March this year, namely that they declare a unilateral, verifiable and permanent ceasefire.”

Brian Currin also stated “that as a result of logistical difficulties in working with a large group of individuals in different parts of the world and the need to engage on the issues quickly and efficiently it has been decided, in consultation with various interested parties to establish an International Contact Group of 5 people. Details of this group, it members, mandate and role will be announced during the course of October.”

Basque political prisoner tries to commit suicide

Basque political prisoner Txus Martin cut his veins on the 25th of September in an attempt at suicide, the prisoners’ support group anounced last week. The group also denounced the harsh conditions he has been subjected to, especially over the past five years in French jails, which have caused him psychological illnesses.

As happens every week, more than 50 vigils were held in towns across the Basque Country last Friday to support the more than 700 political prisoners held in 85 jails in France and Spain.


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23 July 2010



BASQUE INFO 14 & 21/07/10

• Pro-Independence solidarity and strength displayed in two nations
• Udalbiltza case begins with great show of support
• Youth mobilise for independence during the summer despite criminalization
• Prisoner loses 20 kilos on hunger strike

Pro-Independence solidarity and strength displayed in two nations

More than 10,000 people rallied in Donostia San Sebastian on the 10th of July to demand self-determination. The demonstration had been called by three Left pro-Independence parties to show solidarity in addition to the Catalan people who were demonstrating in Barcelona at the same time. Over one million people took part in the largest demonstration for self-government in Catalonia to protest against the Spanish authorities’ latest attack on Catalan autonomy.

Representatives of both nations attended the other’s rally in Donostia and Barcelona.

In Donostia the speakers said the demonstration was another step in the building of a broad pro-independence movement in the Basque Country. They said that the Country is on the move towards a new political scenario with resolution and commitment. They also called upon all political and social agencies and trade unions to join forces and establish alliances to work in the same direction.

Udalbiltza case begins with great show of support
On the 15th of July a trial started in the Spanish national court in Madrid against 22 Basque former councillors and mayors for their work in Udalbitza, the first Basque national institution. Udalbiltza was created in 1999 by 2,000 nationalist elected representatives to promote nation-building across the Basque Country. Since then the institution has been involved in many different projects to promote basque culture, true national bodies and help economic developing in deprived regions.

Now the 22 former elected representatives are facing between 15 and 20 years in jail as they are accused of being members of ETA for their political, public and peaceful work within Udalbiltza.

A broad support campaign has been organised and there have been many public expressions of support from different sections such as political parties, trade unions, culture, sport organisations and individuals and even from the international arena.

Around 10,000 people marched in Bilbao last Saturday to support the indicted.
There were representatives of all the Basque nationalist parties and even some Councillors of the Spanish Labour Party (in Government in Madrid and in the Basque autonomous region) took part in the demonstration.

The Egunkaria case is in everybody´s mind. The huge and broad support shown by Basque society brought about the absolving of all the indicted by the Spanish national court. The same lack of evidence and the clear political nature of both cases prove that the Udalbiltza case should also be thrown out. Nevetheless the solicitors have protested the attack on the right to defence as the Tribunal has refused to admit two experts’ testimonies and all the 165 documentary evidence, allowing only 20 witnesses out of the 140 presented by the defence. Among those prevented from taking part in the trial as witnesses are Irish priest Alec Reid, Scottish National Party MP Lloyd Quinan and former Idaho Senator Pete Cenarrusa.
The trial will continue this week and will then break for the summer until September.

Youth mobilise for independence during the summer despite criminalization
Basque youth will be very busy this summer as pro-independence mountain marches have been organised in every province of the Basque Country. The marches have the common slogan of “Wave the red flag!” and will last for at least three days.
Many more pro-Independence local events have been organised by the youth in festivals across the Basque Country.
Organised by the Basque pro-Independence youth organization SEGI, 200 youth marched in the northern Basque town of Biarritz on the 14th of July, the French national day, to denounce the French state and the capitalist system for their responsibility in the assimilation and oppression process in the Basque Country.
Meanwhile seventeen youth activists from Donostia San Sebastian have been tried in the Spanish National Court in Madrid for their alleged work in SEGI. Twenty-six were arrested in 2005 and most of them reported being tortured before being sent to jail. Now they are waiting for their sentences which could be up to 8 years in prison. Over past years another sixteen police operations of this kind have taken place against the pro-Independence youth organization SEGI which is banned in the Southern Basque Country.

Prisoner loses 20 kilos on hunger strike
Basque political prisoner Arkaitz Agirregabiria ended a 33-day hunger-strike against solitary confinement last Monday after reaching an agreement with the Director of the French jail where he is held. He will at last be transferred to another jail with other comrades. He has lost 20 kilos during the protest.
Another two prisoners who were arrested with Arkaitz last May are still on hunger-strike for the same reason in other French jails and some other comrades have begun hunger-strikes in solidarity with them.
Another prisoner is on hunger-strike in a southern Spanish jail to protest against the prison guards’ harassment and another is on hunger-strike in Portugal to protest against the appalling living conditions in which he is held.

1 July 2010

Basque Info podcast

This week's Basque Info podcast is available now including the main news of the week and and an interview with Batasuna representative about the recently signed strategic agreement.

Basque Info 30/06/10

• Pro-independence workers fight back against Zapatero’s anti-labour measures
• Basque pro-independence activist arrested in Belfast
• Tributes to Basque refugees, murdered militants and prisoners

Pro-independence workers fight back against Zapatero’s anti-labour measures
Yesterday, Tuesday 29th, a general strike was organised in the southern Basque Country (under Spanish administration) by the Basque pro-independence trade unions, who have the majority of elected representatives in workers’ councils. The general strike was also supported by the Basque pro-independence left parties.

Last week the Spanish government passed several new legislative measures attacking workers’ rights. The Basque pro-independence trade unions immediately called a general strike.

Despite the deep economic crisis in the Spanish state and its impact on working people the only general strikes organised have been in the Basque Country. In June last year the Basque pro-independence trade unions organised a successful general strike followed by many demonstrations and campaigns in working places. Last month they also organised a public service general strike and finally yesterday they organised a yet another strike in all sectors. This time the Basque branch of the largest Spanish trade union also supported their call.

From the early hours of the morning groups of organised workers walked the industrial estates and participated in demonstrations and pickets. Later in the morning they joined students, clerical workers, pensioners and others to explain the issues to other citizens and remaining workers and to encourage them to join in the strike.

At midday around 65,000 people took part in demonstrations in the capital cities of the four Basque southern provinces. The slogan chosen for the day was “Stop impositions. Let’s defend our rights!” Representatives of trade unions told the large crowds that the Spanish Government’s new labour reform is the worst in 30 years. The legislation includes cuts in public services and pensions, reducing the workers’ redundancy payouts and other anti-labour measures.

The speakers also said that the general strike is not the end but the begining of a long and hard struggle that must be fought. They also spoke against social partnership as they consider it a mere tool of social control and blackmailing in the hands of the employers.

Thousands of people took also part in the evening demonstrations in the four capitals and in the many other local ones organised throughout the day.

The police charged against pickets in many places, especially in Bilbao and there were several arrests.

Basque pro-independence activist arrested in Belfast

At midnight last Thursday a Basque pro-independence activist was arrested by the police in Belfast in an operation assisted by the Spanish police.

He was then taken for interrogation to Antrim police station. The arrested person is Fermin Vila who stood for the European elections in 1994 as a pro-independence candidate for Herri Batasuna and reportedly has been on the run since 2000. He was also the Basque local councils’ spokesperson for demilitarization and represented the anti-conscription association.

Despite being released on Saturday on charges of “terrorist activities” in the north of Ireland he was immediately rearrested due to an existing European Arrest Warrant issued by the Spanish authorities.

During a preliminary hearing at Belfast Recorder's Court on Monday, his barrister Sean Devine said he would not be consenting to the extradition request. Judge Burgess said he was satisfied the defendant should be remanded in custody until the hearing of this matter.

A timetable for the case is expected to be agreed later this week, with a full hearing expected in September.

In a statement Fermin Vila said he was proud of his involvement in the Basque pro-independence struggle and that he was only sad to be jailed for being a Basque political refugee. He also stated his support for a peace process in the Basque Country and said there were many lessons to be learned from the Irish process.

Meanwhile, an appeal by another Basque pro-independence activist against an extradition order to face a charge of “glorifying terrorism” has been put on hold. Inaki de Juana, who was granted bail to live in Belfast, has not been seen since April. He was due to challenge a ruling that he should be returned to Spain for trial. But with his whereabouts unknown, judges in the Court of Appeal on Monday agreed to stay the case on the basis that it would be an abuse of process to go ahead with it.

Tributes to Basque refugees, murdered militants and prisoners
Today Wednesday 30th is thirty years since Basque political prisoner Jose Mari Sagardui “Gatza” was imprisoned. He is called “the Basque Mandela” as he is the longest-serving prisoner in Europe. His solicitors denounced his situation at a press conference last week and branded the Spanish authorities’ prison policy as cruel, inhumane and vindictive. He should have been released last year but instead, as is the case with many other Basque political prisoners, he has seen his sentence extended by new retroactive laws. Fifty-three Basque prisoners have already been in jail for more than 20 years and thirteen for more than 25 years.

Forty-nine year-old Basque political refugee Mikel Zalakain died last week after a short illness in Corsica. He left to escape repression in 1986. His entire family was then arrested and his father died in jail. Mikel was arrested in 1992 and spent one year in a French jail. After his release the French authorities ordered his confinement to Paris but he eventually broke the confinement and escaped to Corsica, where he spent the rest of his life on the run with his wife and son.

Both Gatza and Zalakain were remembered by the Pro-Independence movement and the weekly vigils in support of the prisoners.

A commemoration took place last weekend in the Basque Pyrenees to remember two Basque Volunteers who were murdered by the Spanish police there 20 years ago. Another volunteer was seriously wounded and was fortunate to survive the shots to his head at close range. The circumstances have never been officially clarified by the Spanish state.

A Basque prisoner’s mother and a friend who died in a road accident on their way to a prison visit 20 years ago were also commemorated over the weekend.

Basque Info 16 & 23/06/10

• Pro-independence agreement of historical significance signed
• Struggle for civil and political rights receives new boost
• Growing international support for the Basque Country
• Prisoners in struggle receive support

Pro-independence agreement of historical significance signed

The Basque Pro-Independence Left and the social-democratic nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity) last Sunday signed a strategic agreement to achieve a Basque independent state.

The agreement has been branded as of historic importance as it is the first one of its kind in the Basque Country and also due to the different traditions and backgrounds both forces represent.

The agreement was signed during a two-hour long political meeting in the Euskalduna Congress Hall in Bilbao including speeches, traditional dance and music and videos. Three hundred members of each party attended, along with representatives from political parties from around the world like Ireland (Sinn Féin), Palestine, Flanders, Catalonia...

Months of common work and debate have led to the signing of this historic agreement. In it both parties commit themselves to develop unified action and strategy to achieve an independent Basque state through a peaceful, civic and democratic confrontation with the Spanish and French states. They set as a priority the resolution of the armed and political conflict through dialogue and negotiation.

The agreement declares the need for new political institutions for the Basque Country and it sets as an objective the achievement of social justice and equality between men and women.

The agreement is open to other progressive pro-independence forces to join in with special reference to the trade union movement. The signatories also talk of the need for joining forces with other pro-self-determination parties. The agreement also states the intention of respecting the differences and autonomy of each party and it highlights the need for new combined electoral platforms.

Pro-Spanish political forces reacted with threats of repression and among nationalist parties some welcomed it and some others demanded the end of ETA’s armed struggle.

Struggle for civil and political rights receives new boost

On the 11th of June dozens of people from different political backgrounds held a press conference to launch the conclusion of months of debate around the campaign for civil and political rights.

In January Adierazi EH!/Express Basque Country! was launched at a massive political event and since then they have been working at the national and local levels to build a grassroots movement in favour of basic democratic rights.

With the launch of the conclusions which include the definition of a bill of human, civil and political rights they want to boost the struggle for democracy and peace in the Basque Country.

This initiative is born out of the state of emergency the Basque Country lives under and the need of strong and organised grassroots response.

During the press conference they showed their support for those indicted in the Udalbiltza case who are facing up to 15 years in jail for their political work as local authority councillors and mayors in favour of the national construction of the Basque country. Political, labour and community organizations have also shown their support publicly over the past few weeks as the trial approaches. At the press conference Adierazi EH!/Express BC! also showed their support to the dozens of pro-independence youth who face many years in jail in soon-to-come trials. 3,000 people demonstrated last Saturday in Donostia/San Sebastian in favour of those same youth.

Three Basque pro-independence youth who escaped from the massive police operation in November appeared in Rome two weeks ago at a press conference to denounce the Spanish repression at the same time as Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero was due to meet his Italian counterpart Berlusconi. They were immediately arrested and imprisoned and are now facing extradition to the Spanish state.

Growing international support for the Basque Country

Representatives of Basque solidarity committees from across Europe gathered in the Basque coastal town of Zarautz ten days ago for their annual meeting. There they were briefed on the political situation, exchanged experiences, agreed new initiatives and showed once again their support to all of those struggling for a free Basque Country.

Year after year new solidarity committees are created and all of them organise an international week of solidarity in February as well as many other local campaigns and events.

Following the example of MEPs in Brussels, Swiss MPs launched last week a working group in the national Parliament to support a peace process in the Basque Country.

Prisoners in struggle receive support

Four Basque political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in different Spanish and French jails to protest against their isolation from other comrades.

Dozens of other political prisoners have once again lost their visits as their relatives refused intimate body searches.

Despite police harassment 130 people from the province of Navarre traveled 1,200 kilometres to the southern Spanish jail of Puerto, near Gibraltar, to show their support for the Basque prisoners who are kept there. Another bus from the Elgoibar town went to Castellon on the Mediterranean coast.

Hundreds of people took part in a march in Baiona, hundreds more attended the Solidarity Day in the Urola valley and dozens of local vigils were organised across the Basque Country showing the Basque prisoners do not stand alone.

5 June 2010

Basque Info podcast

Podcast including the main news of the week and an interview with an Ogra Shinn Féin activist who attended last Saturday's Basque youth demonstration in Brussels.

Basque Info 2/06/10

• Hundreds of Basque youth take their protest of abuse of their rights to Brussels
• Youth denounces being kidnapped on two occasions
• Basque prisoners end hunger strikes
• 100,000 give support to the Basque language schools
• Leaked police dossier shows how they treat detainees
• Protest organised in Dublin against Spanish EU presidency

Hundreds of Basque youth take their protest of abuse of their rights to Brussels

In March different Basque youth organizations joined forces and launched a new group called GaztEHerria (Youth Nation). Their first event was a successful day-long event on Good Friday. At a press conference that day speakers, supported by dozens of other countries’ young activists, called for a demonstration in Brussels to protest the attacks against the Basque pro-independence youth, especially after 36 of them had been arrested in a police operation last November.

Finally last Saturday and despite police check points and harassment en route, hundreds of Basque youth marched in Brussels for their political and civil rights. On their way each one was identified and recorded by the Spanish police. Due to the check points the demonstration started three hours late.

After thousands of kilometres and very little sleep the Basque youth marched on the streets of the European capital behind a banner that read “Freedom for the Basque Country” and to the astonishment of the local Belgians.

The participants held hundreds of Basque flags and chanted slogans like “We are youth -- not terrorists!” or “Continue fighting, continue organising!” Representatives of youth organisations from Ireland, Germany, Catalonia, Flanders, Italy and Kurdistan also took part in the demonstration.

Youth denounces being kidnapped on two occasions
At a press conference last Sunday, Mikeldi Zenigaonaindia, a young former Basque prisoner, publicly stated that he had been kidnapped by the Spanish police on two separate occasions over the past five months.

These actions occurred to other Basque nationalists last year and one of them, Jon Anza, was finally found dead after missing for eleven months. Eventually, supported by his community and the local town mayor, Mikeldi decided to overcome fear and tell his story.

He related being taken to the forest and threatened to spend the rest of his life in jail or even to be killed if he didn’t collaborate with the police.

The local council passed a motion demanding this type of harassment and kidnapping end.

Basque prisoners end hunger strikes
Basque political prisoners in the Spanish jail of Jaen ended their hunger strike after 18 days. They demand the end of humiliating intimate body searches on their way to visits. They haven’t had any visits over the past seven months. They also demanded dignified living conditions and the end of solitary confinement.

Also the Basque prisoners in the French jail of Tarascon put an end to their 14 days’ hunger strike after one of their comrades was taken out of solitary confinement and permitted to rejoin them in their prison block.

The council of Elgoibar town passed a motion last week demanding the release of local political prisoner and Basque Pro-Independence Left’s leader Arnaldo Otegi who was arrested last October, along with five other comrades, when they were promoting a debate for a new strategy based on political and democratic means.

100,000 give support to the Basque language schools

Last Sunday up to 100,000 people attended the annual festival in favour of the Basque language schools in the province of Biscay.

Those who went to the fishing town of Bermeo enjoyed a great day out with different events such as rock and folk music gigs, theatre, clowns, games and great local food and drink.

The regional pro-Spanish government authorities who attended had to hear numerous criticisms of their treatement of the Basque language despite it having official status in that part of the country.

Leaked police dossier shows how they treat detainees
After three Basque prisoners’ solicitors, one renowned artist and six former prisoners were arrested last 14th of April an official police document was found. It seems that a policeman lost it during the police operation.

The document has now been published by Basque newspapers. It gives very clear instructions as to what treatment should be given to the arrested. The solicitors and the artist should be “exquisitely” treated at all times while the interrogations conducted with rest of the detainees should “pursue the obtention of a declaration which will ratify the judge’s accusations”.

After the five days under the incommunicado regime the solicitors and the artist said they treated in a correct manner while the rest of the arrested reported being tortured with plastic bags, beatings and sexual harassment.

Protest organised in Dublin against Spanish EU presidency

This Friday the Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee calls all to attend the last in the series of three protests against the EU Presidency being held by a state in which repression of Basque political activists and torture is endemic, along with the renewal of state kidnap, torture and murder gangs. 16.30, Friday 4th June, Spanish Legation office, Molesworth Street, Dublin.

Basque Info 26/05/10

  • Thousands march in support of youth activists
  • Another successful Basque language festival
  • Alleged ETA activists arrested
  • “Time to stop playing with prisoners’ lives” say relatives

Thousands march in support of youth activists
6,500 people demonstrated in Irunea/Pamplona last Saturday against torture and bans on political parties as well as to support the Basque pro-independence youth. The demonstration was supported by many political parties, trade unions and community organisations.

Since the Basque pro-independence youth organisations were banned in 2001 more than 200 youth have been arrested across the Basque Country for their political work. During the police operation last November, 36 youth were arrested and many of them reported having being tortured.

Speakers at the end of the demonstration stated that the Spanish state is not a democratic one. They also stated unequivocally:
“We are pro-independence youth and we want to build the Basque state of the future. That’s why we work hard in our neighbourhoods and towns. Because of that the French and Spanish states brand us as terrorists. But despite that repression we will continue fighting until we get the type of Basque Country we want.”

They also called on the Basque society to build a solid wall of resistance against the attacks on civil and political rights.

Another successful Basque language festival
Despite obstacles put in place by the local pro-Spanish town Mayor, 30,000 people took part at the annual Basque language schools’ festival in Irunea/Pamplona last Sunday.

“Despite all obstacles”, the slogan chosen for this occasion, reflected the daily problems these schools have to face due to the policies of the Spanish unionist regional government.

The day-long festival had activities for all: food, workshops, live music, games, etc.

The festival has been growing in support over the past 15 years and raises much-needed funds for Basque-language public schools in the province of Navarre.

Alleged ETA activists arrested
Five people were arrested last Thursday near Baiona/Bayonne (northern Basque Country) by the French police.

Three of them were armed and according to the Spanish authorities one of them could be one of the ETA’s top men. The Spanish Interior Minister has been repeatedly branding all of the arrested over the past year with the same title.

Four of them were eventually confined to jail yesterday.

There were protests against the arrests over the weekend across the Basque Country.

“Time to stop playing with prisoners’ lives” say relatives.
The hard conditions Basque prisoners suffer in jail were denounced by their relatives at a a press conference last week.

Recently four prisoners received beatings, visits are lost on a regular basis due to the refusal to suffer humiliating intimate body searches, prisoners are being constantly transfered from jail to jail, sentences are being extended...

Some prisoners haven’t seen their relatives in many months.

One spokesperson said “The criminal prison policy is a laboratory of repression where they do continous tests.  Solitary confinment, isolation, blackmail and harassment is what we get every day.”

20 May 2010

Basque Info podcast 19/05/10

You can now listen to this week's Basque Info podcast including the main news of the week and an interview with Paul Bilbao from Kontseilua, the Council of the Basque language groups, about last Saturday's historical rally.

Basque Info bulletin 19/05/10

• Massive demonstration in favour of the Basque language
• Hunger strikes and protests in jails
• International support for the Basque youth movement
• Latin-American revolutionaries’ grand children support the Basque Country

Massive demonstration in favour of the Basque language

Last Saturday thousands upon thousands rallied in Irunea/Pamplona to demand their right to live in the Basque language. According to the local pro-Spanish police and media 15,000 people took part. The organisers claimed it was the largest demonstration ever in the province in support of the Basque language.

Such a popular response didn’t come to much surprise although the organisers said their expectations had been surpassed. After years of contempt and attacks from the regional government there was a lot of anger within the community.

The Basque language is not official in all areas of the province of Navarre. Basque language schools have to overcome huge obstacles while the regional government promote English language schools as opposed to the Basque language ones, parents see their rights denied to take their children to Basque language medium schools, adults teaching organizations and media have seen their funds dramatically cut, civil servants are not required to be able to speak in Basque, the Basque speaking community are made invisible and constantly ignored...

The demonstrators had to confront the cold and rain but rallied in a very festive manner with displays of Basque traditions and culture through music and street animation.

At the end of the rally Paul Bilbao, the newly elected general secretary of Kontseilua, the Basque language community organizations council, demanded a new scenario for the national language including new policies and new laws.

He also said the successful demonstration was the starting point of a new phase of struggle to make reality the right to live in Basque language.

Hunger strikes and protests in jails

The Basque political prisoners in the southern Spanish jail of Jaen begun an indefinitive hunger strike last week to protest against the humiliating searches their relatives have to go through when going to visits. Among the prisoners is Jose Mari Sagardui “Gatza” who in July will be 30 years in jail.

Basque prisoner Joseba Fernandez ended last week a 30-day hunger strike he started to protest against him being the only Basque prisoner in the French jail of Poitiers. He is now with a comrade.

The 14 Basque political female prisoners in the French jail of Fleury were sent to solitary confinement last week due to their protests against the way one of them had been treated by the prison guards after an arson accident. The prisoner had to be taken to hospital for smoke poisoning and two broken wrists. One of the protesters was also beaten by guards.

Hundreds of people took part in the more than 60 weekly vigils across the country to support the rights of Basque political prisoners. There were also support events such dinners and games in various towns.

International support for the Basque youth movement

The new broad Basque pro-independence youth umbrella group GaztEHerria is touring Europe to gather support for their political and civil rights.

Last week they met political parties in the European and Flemish Parliaments. In Brussels they met with the European Free Alliance, the umbrella group for the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru among others and the European Left which includes Sinn Féin and other left-wing parties. All of them showed their support for the Basque youth and their campaign.

GaztEHerria was formed last March by many different Basque youth groups as a broad front for independence and youth rights. They organised a national event in Easter with thousands of youth in attendance and called a demonstration on the 29th of May in Brussels with the support of 50 revolutionary youth groups from across the world.

Latin-American revolutionaries’ grand children support the Basque Country

Last Saturday a hugely symbolic event was organised at the Simon Bolivar Museum in the small village of Bolibar near Bilbao. Simon Bolivar, who was of Basque descent, was the great liberator of the Americas and inspires the current Venezuela revolution.

At the museum the grand children of some other freedom fighters like Cesar Augusto Sandino, Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa gathered to pay tribute to their grand parents and to show their support for the democratic process in the Basque Country. Basque Pro-Independence Left spokesperson Tasio Erkizia said at the event it is very much appreciated such support and that the example of struggle for the social justice and freedom represented by Bolivar, Sandino, Zapata and Villa is very much alive in the Basque Country at these historical times.

13 May 2010

Basque Info podcast

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Basque Info 5 & 12/05/10

Basque Info 5 & 12/05/10

• Anti-repression groups against criminalization
• Spanish Ombudsman denies torture cases
• Four youth activists arrested facing extradition
• Tens of thousands gather to support Basque language in the north
• Police look for Iñaki de Juana
• More repression in prisons

Anti-repression groups against criminalization

Three weeks ago three Basque political prisoners’ solicitors were arrested along with another seven former prisoners and relatives.

The solicitors and two ex-prisoners were finally sent to jail. Ten days ago a press conference was organised to make public a declaration of support towards all of them and against the criminalization campaign launched by the Spanish government.

The declaration has received the support of several political parties, trade unions and solicitors’ associations. All of them demand respect for the right to defend political prisoners without harassment and interference.

Those present at the press conference claimed the importance of the solidarity work to the prisoners and also the contribution made by those arrested to achieve a scenario of democracy, justice and peace.

They also expressed their determination to continue with their work despite the wide repression.

Spanish Ombudsman denies torture cases
Enrique Mugica, former Spanish Justice Minister and current Ombudsman, yesterday told a United Nations commission against torture that he hasn’t came across with any cases of torture. Last November Mr. Mugica was appointed head of the so called National Mechanism against Torture.

Last year alone 62 Basques claimed to have been tortured. In October one of the few torture cases to be brought before a judge will take place.

Among those present at the meeting there were representatives of the UN Sub-Committee against Torture, the Group for the Prevention of Torture of Geneva and Amnesty International. All of them have continuously demanded that the Spanish government end the incommunicado regime as the best way to prevent torture. Those calls have been ignored.

The Spanish Coordination against Torture wasn’t invited to the meeting. Basque organizations are part of the coordination and criticised that the meeting was held in secret.

Four youth activists arrested facing extradition

Last November 36 Basque pro-independence youth activists were arrested, tortured and imprisoned for their political and public work.

Some were able to escape the police operation and took refuge in the north of the Basque Country (under French occupation). Last Friday four of them were arrested following a European Arrest Warrant launched by the Spanish authorities. They are now awaiting a hearing while remanded in custody.

Protests against the arrests were organised in their southern home towns and also in the north. The anti-repression group Askatasuna and the youth organization Segi criticised the criminalization campaign launched by the Spanish Interior Minister who claimed they were an ETA unit ready to act. Those claims were branded as mere propaganda as the four had been living openly since they moved north; they had registered themselves and had work contracts.

Representatives of the new youth movement GaztEHrria met MEP’s in Brussels during the week to explain them the situation of repression against the Basque youth. They also called for a demonstration on the 29th of May at the European capital.

Tens of thousands gather to support Basque language in the north

Despite the bad weather around 50,000 people (less than the usual 70,000) took part in the day-long event called Herri Urrats (People’s Step) last Sunday.

Herri Urrats is the annual festival in support of the northern Basque language schools and it combines the demands for the official recognition of the language and a family-friendly atmosphere with culture displays, live music, food, sports...

It’s also a crucial way of fund raising for the Basque schools in the north. The money raised at this year’s festival will be used to build two new schools.

Police look for Iñaki de Juana
Former Basque political prisoner Iñaki de Juana, who is fighting extradition to Spain, has been missing from his West Belfast home for at least one month according to the police.

Judge Burgess had previously agreed to extradite him under spurious charges of glorifying terrorism for a letter allegedly written by Iñaki de Juana himself. He had always denied that he was the author of the letter, and that he was willing to cooperate from Belfast.

The case was pending an appeal hearing. Judge Burgess called a new hearing for the 14th of May to clarify Iñaki de Juana’s situation.

The Spanish right-wing party and the media mounted pressure on the Spanish government accusing it of allowing Iñaki de Juana to escape.

More repression in prisons
Since the introduction of new searching measures in jails six months ago, hundreds of visits have been cancelled and thousands of relatives haven’t been able to see their loved ones.

Both political prisoners and their relatives have fought back against the measures which include the prison guards physically searching the visitors who haven’t allowed themselves to be humiliated.

Despite the statement released by the Basque Political Prisoners Collective EPPK at the end of March claiming victory, some jail governors are still imposing those searches and consequently visits are still being cancelled.

The situation is especially hard due to the already difficult situation that involves prison visits. Relatives have to travel hundreds of miles to get to the jails with the uncertainty of whether they will be able to have a visit or not.

Those trips are very expensive and in order to alleviate the economic impact the relatives have to organised buses and collective vans often driven by volunteer drivers. 16 people have been killed over the past 20 years and hundreds injured in road accidents on their way to prison visits.

29 April 2010

Basque Info podcast

Listen to this week's Basque Info podcast including the main news of the week and an interview with Ógra Shinn Féin national organiser Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire who will tell us about his recent visit to the BC.

Basque Pro-Independence Left calls on ETA and the Spanish government to be constructive

Basque Info 28/04/10

• Basque Pro-Independence Left calls on ETA and the Spanish government to be constructive
• New campaign for northern Basque autonomy launched
• Campaign for civil and political rights gains momentum
• Egunkaria Five thank supporters and warn about new attacks

Basque Pro-Independence Left calls on ETA and the Spanish government to be constructive

Around 200 prominent members of the Basque Pro-Independence Left took part in a press conference last Saturday in Irunea/Pamplona.

In the document launched at the press conference they set the first steps needed to build the democratic process. The document says: “The democratic process needs the people’s pressure in order to make untenable the position of those who want to maintain the current blockade situation and in order to make it impossible any sort of imposition or interference.

The change of political cycle which opens now also refers to the shapes and methods of struggle. The national and social liberation process must be based on exclusively political activity.”

The Basque Pro-Independence Left has asked the Spanish government and ETA to respond the Brussels Declaration in a constructive manner. On the 30th March, 20 international leaders signed a declaration read in Brussels by Brian Currin where they demanded that ETA call a permanent and verifiable cease-fire, while the Spanish government should respond appropriately to permit new political and democratic efforts to advance, differences to be resolved and lasting peace attained.

Basque political parties, trade unions and social movements welcomed the outcome of the press conference as a very positive move towards resolving the conflict.

New campaign for northern Basque autonomy launched

Last Saturday Batera, the umbrella group in favour of a northern Basque autonomy launched a new campaign for the coming years with the objective of achieving the official recognition of the French-occupied Basque Country by 2014.

34,000 people took part in a referendum for Basque autonomy in March which according to the organisers shows there are enough conditions to re-boost the campaign.

The campaign would include four different phases including an inclusive and public debate on the type of autonomy, lobbying the French government and an official referendum and local elections to the new Basque Assembly.

Campaign for civil and political rights gains momentum

Hundreds of people packed the Gernika Theatre last Saturday, the day before the 73rd anniversary of the town’s bombing, at a very colourful and emotional event.

The event was organised by ‘Adierazi EH! / Express BC!’ – a platform which was launched to demand civil and political rights last January.

Citizens affected by the Spanish repression for their work in political parties, local councils, youth organizations, language groups...etc came to the stage to denounce those attacks and to tell the Spanish government they will not be silenced.

Adierazi EH! / Express BC! continues to grow and intends to become an effective people’s wall to stop attacks against the Basque Country.

Egunkaria Five thank supporters and warn about new attacks

Last Sunday morning in the Euskalduna Conference Hall in Bilbao, thousands of people, including political and social representatives, attended an event organised by the Egunkaria Five to thank the support they have received during the seven years of the judiciary process against them.

The process started in 2003 with the closing down of the Basque language newspaper and the arrest, torture and imprisonment of 10 members of the board of directors. Finally five of them sat at the Spanish Special Court last January accused of being members of ETA for setting up the paper. Just two weeks ago all of them were acquitted.

After expressing their gratitude the Egunkaria Five asked for support and solidarity for those indicted in the Udalbiltza case. This case which will be judged soon will sit on the accused bench 22 local councillors for setting up the first Basque national institution made up of local representatives. They are also accused of being members of ETA for doing so.

Dublin Basque Solidarity protest accuses presidency of European Union of repression and torture of Basque political activists and journalists.

That the Presidency of the European Union is currently "in the hands of a repressive and torturing state” was the message clearly declared on the placards of a demonstration on Saturday afternoon (24th May 2010) in O'Connell Street, the main street of Dublin's capital. The demonstration was organised by the Dublin branch of the Irish Basque Solidarity Committees and was protesting against repression and torture of Basques by the Spanish state, who currently hold the Presidency of the EU. Incidents of repression by the Spanish state included the banning of Basque political parties and electoral platforms as well as arrests of their activists, closure of Basque newspapers and radio stations and arrests of journalists, banning of youth organisations and arrests of their activists and cruel treatment of over 500 Basque political prisoners (another 200 are held in France).

The Dublin branch of the IBSC had organised the protest as one of a series of protests against Spain’s current Presidency of the EU while it acts as it does with repression and torture. Another two dates are scheduled for protests in at the Spanish Legation and EU offices in Dublin: Friday 7th May and Friday 4th June, the month that Spain's term of EU Presidency comes to an end. The first is intended also to mark the EU's official day which although on 9th May, is on a Sunday and not during normal office working hours of the Spanish Legation.

15 April 2010

Basque Info podcast

You can also listen to our Basque Info podcast here including an interview with Ainara Mendiola from the Egunkaria support international campaign.

Basque Info 7 & 14/04/10

Basque Info 7 & 14/04/10

• Most successful Homeland Day in a decade celebrated
• Egunkaria Five acquitted
• 342 years in jail for 40 Pro-Independence Left activists
• Prisoners attacked

Most successful Homeland Day in a decade celebrated

More than 15,000 people braved heavy rain and police checkpoints to take part in the Basque Homeland’s Day’s rally on Easter Sunday.

One column started from Hendaia, in the French occupied northern Basque Country and another one from Irun in the Spanish occupied south. Both met at the artificial border to hold the rally’s banner where “We need a state Independence” slogan could be read.

The national rally had been called by the recently established grassroots network Independentistak (Pro-Independence People). Several progressive and nationalist parties and trade unions had also called to take part in the rally.

Among an atmosphere of optimism and unity political leaders highlighted the importance of such an event in the organising of a broad pro-independence movement.

Different speakers from the citizen’s movement Independentistak stressed the need for a grassroots based movement and encouraged ordinary citizens to become protagonist in the new phase of the struggle for independence.

Well known musicians, dancers, artists and social movement’s activists also took to the stage and showed their commitment in favour of independence.

The youth also played a key central role. Thousands of pro-independence youth had previously gathered on Friday in Durango, near Bilbao at an all day long event organised by the recently launched pro-independence youth umbrella group GaztEHerria.

Despite the dozens of police checkpoints and constant police harassment thousands of youth took part in workshops, discussion and debates, street animation, theatre, food and music activities from morning to night.

Among those youth there were representatives of dozens of youth revolutionary organizations including those from Ireland, Kurdistan, Bolivia, Catalonia and Norway. At a press conference around 100 of them showed their support and also that of more than 50 youth organizations from around the world to the Basque Pro-Independence youth. This is at a time of huge repression against youth activities and a protest was called that will take place in Brussels on the 29th of May.

Egunkaria Five acquitted

Last Monday the Audiencia Nacional, Spain's Special no-jury 'anti-terrorist' Court, finally delivered its verdict, which was "not guilty" for each of the five accused Egunkaria journalists. The ‘not guilty’ verdict was related to being a part of ETA or of helping them by accepting their direction or by passing information to them. Although the 'evidence' against them was of such poor quality that the State Prosecutor had stated they should have no case to answer, the accused had been waiting since February for the verdict.

Two right-wing organisations, Justice and Dignity and Association of Victims of Terrorism, were permitted to prosecute the case and demanded between 12 and 14 years prison and barring from public office for 15 years. They also sought that the five journalists should remain in prison for a minimum of ten years. Those organisations still have the right to appeal and may do so.

A number of journalists, including some of those just acquitted, are awaiting trial on charges of financial wrongdoing, such as tax evasion, and fraudulent claiming of social welfare allegedly committed to fundraise ETA. The latest verdict will be of great help to dismiss these allegations.

The Spanish Special Court also decreed that the newspaper Egunkaria, the first daily Basque-language newspaper in the world, had been closed down without due cause and furthermore in violation of the Spanish Constitution. The Court also appeared to validate the claims of the five that they had been tortured.

The Irish Basque Solidarity Committees hosted a number of public meetings in Derry, Belfast and Dublin earlier this year to publicise the case of the five journalists and of the newspaper. The meetings were addressed by the coordinator of international solidarity with Egunkaria campaign, who travelled from the Basque Country.

In the midst of the celebrations at this judgement, campaigners said that it cannot be forgotten that a Basque newspaper was arbitrarily closed down, many journalists arrested and intimidated, all losing their jobs; that five journalists were tortured; that despite the state prosecutor stating that the paper should not have been closed down and that the five had no case the answer, that years later they went on trial and that it took well over two months after the conclusion of the case to deliver a verdict. Furthermore, no-one among the perpetrators of these acts of injustice has been charged with oppression or with torture.

342 years in jail for 40 Pro-Independence Left activists

In the aftermath of the hugely successful Basque Homeland Day the Spanish Special Court after eight years of judiciary process finally indicted 40 well known members of the Pro-Independence Left for allegedly being members of ETA and asked for 372 years in prison in total. All the activities they are accused of are political. Some of there still remain in jail and most of them have been released on bail.

75 pro-independence bars and clubs were also closed down during the process.

Many different political parties spoke out against this attack and the Pro-Independence Left told the Spanish Labour Party in government that the democratic process is unstoppable and that repression won’t make the movement change their decision to bring the confrontation with the State to the political arena.

Prisoners attacked
Basque political prisoner Sergio Polo was badly beaten by Spanish policemen whilst being transferred from one jail to other. Two other Basque prisoners were attacked by common prisoners following prison guard’s instructions over the past two weeks.

Prisoners Alex Belasko and Premin San Pedro began hunger strikes to protest against their confinement and humiliating searches to relatives whilst coming to visits.

Despite the end of the protest campaign and victory against new searching measures, there have been some incidents in some particular jails over the past two weeks.

Thousands of people have also taken part in many different events and vigils to show solidarity to the more than 750 Basque political prisoners including trips to distant jails and fasts.

1 April 2010

International declaration of support for democratic process launched

Basque Info 31/03/10

  • International declaration of support for democratic process launched
  • Two weeks after Jon Anza’s body was found, silence remains
  • International Conference on Self-Determination backs indicted Basque political representatives
  • Thousands demand economic model change
  • 8 youth arrested in the north
  • West Belfast supports Inaki de Juana’s fight against extradition

International declaration of support for democratic process launched

The former President of South Africa Frederick de Klerk, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds, former SDLP leader John Hume and former Irish President Mary Robinson and 16 other international leaders including four Nobel Peace Prize winners and people specialised in peace processes and conflict resolution yesterday launched a joint statement to support the democratic process in the Basque Country.

In a statement presented in the European Parliament by the South African mediator Brian Currin, the international leaders welcome and commend the proposed steps and new public commitment of the Basque Pro-independence Left to "exclusively political and democratic" means and a "total absence of violence" to attain its political goals.

In their opinion, "fully carried out, this commitment can be a major step in ending the last remaining conflict in Europe".

The statement continues: “We note the expectation that the coming months may present a situation where the commitment to peaceful, democratic and no-violent means becomes an irreversible reality. To that end, we appeal to ETA to support this commitment by declaring a permanent, fully verified ceasefire.

“Such a declaration, appropriately responded to by the Spanish Government, would permit new political and democratic efforts to advance, differences to be resolved and lasting peace attained".

Spanish politicians expressed their contempt when asked for their opinion by journalists but the majority of media and the Spanish government silenced the declaration.

The Basque Pro-Independence Left welcomed the international support for a democratic process based on dialogue, negotiation and respect of the Basque Country’s rights. According to the Basque Left the declaration will help to put the Basque Country in the international agenda.

Nevertheless the Basque Pro-Independence Left reminded people that the main workload and responsibility lies on the Basque Country and called on the Basque left to act and work together as this will be the engine of change and the only guarantor for political change.

The press release goes on to say that the upcoming Basque Homeland Day on Easter Sunday will be a great opportunity to show the French and Spanish states and the rest of the world that the democratic process is already in progress and that it is unstoppable.

Thousands upon thousands are expected to take part in the unitarian demonstration organised by the recently launched Independentistak network that will link the north and the south of the Basque Country on Easter Sunday.

The first Basque Homeland Day was organised in 1932 and it was inspired by the 1916 Irish Easter Rising. Since the first event was organised it has attracted dozens of thousands of people and it was banned during the 40-year Franco dictatorship.

Two weeks after Jon Anza’s body was found, silence remains

Many questions arose when the body of Basque former political prisoner and ETA member Jon Anza was found in a morgue in the French city of Toulouse. The body had been there for almost a year but apparently the police failed to find it.

Two weeks on and even more questions confront the official silence. Against normal procedures and without further explanation the hospital was told by the police to keep Jon Anza’s body in the morgue for almost one year. His passport was in the Lost Objects Office for months but it didn’t seem to be of any interest for the police. There is no explanation about the failure by police to respond after the hospital where Jon Anza was brought to semi-conscious reported his condition to the police three times.

The police haven’t questioned the owners of restaurants in the area where Jon Anza was found. The street cameras haven’t been checked.  

In the meantime protests continued over the weekend in the Basque Country, a multilingual blog about Jon Anza’s case has been censored, his family’s doctor was denied the right to take part at the autopsy and the hospital staff, municipal police and the fire brigade which found his body remain dead silent.

International Conference on Self-Determination backs indicted Basque political representatives

International experts on self-determination and representatives from Ireland, Brittany, Kurdistan, Catalonia and the Basque Country took part last weekend in a conference organised by Udalbiltza, the Basque political representatives national council, in Donostia/San Sebastian. 

Those who took part stressed the relevance of this right in modern Europe and showed their support for the 22 councillors indicted by the Spanish authorities for their work within Udalbiltza. The national institution was banned by the Spanish government in 2003, which alleged that it was set up under ETA’s instructions. Dozens of its members were arrested and imprisoned many of them. Three still remain in jail. The trial is expected to start soon and those indicted face long terms in jail accused of being members of ETA.

Thousands demand economic model change

More than 20,000 people took part last Saturday in demonstrations organised by the Basque nationalist trade unions in the southern four province’s capitals.
The demonstrations had been called to protest against the Spanish government recently announced labour reforms and to demand a new economic model.

The Basque nationalist trade unions hold the majority of representatives in the workers councils in the Basque Country, are class-conscious and are against social partnership and for an alternative economic model and self-determination.

8 youth arrested in the north

Eight pro-independence youth were arrested by the French police yesterday in the Basque province of Lapurdi. They have been accused of taking part in attacks against estate agencies. Hundreds of people protested in their home towns in the evening.

West Belfast supports Inaki de Juana against extradition

An emergency public meeting to raise awareness about the impending extradition of Belfast-based Basque ex-prisoner Iñaki de Juana held in Caulfield’s Bar in west Belfast on Friday March 26 resolved to strengthen the campaign to stop the extradition from proceeding.

The emergency meeting, attended by more than 100 people and chaired by veteran republican activist Joe Austin, was addressed by Sinn Fein MLA Paul Maskey, Michael Culbert from Coiste na n-Iarchimí, Niall Murphy from Kevin Winters Solicitors and Emma Clancy from the Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign.

A sign-on statement calling for the extradition request to be rejected was launched at the event. Participants resolved that the next step in the campaign would be to seek a meeting with British government representatives to present the sign-on statement. A solidarity demonstration will also be organised to show the huge level of community support for de Juana at his appeal hearing in the High Court on June 28.

25 March 2010

Basque Info 17 and 24/03/10

Basque Info 17 and 24/03/10

• Jon Anza’s corpse found in a Toulouse’s morgue
• French policeman killed in shooting with ETA members
• Nationalist vote divided in the north
• New pro-independence youth organization launched
• Basques in danger of being extradited
• Prisoners on hunger strike

Jon Anza’s corpse found in a Toulouse’s morgue

After 11 months missing Jon Anza’s corpse was found in a morgue in the French city of Toulouse on March 11th. Jon Anza’s disappearance was publicly denounced by his family at the time and ETA released a statement claiming his membership. All of them pointed at the Spanish security forces as those responsible for his disappearance.

Since then a campaign has tirelessly mobilised thousands of people and filled the Basque Country walls and beyond with posters including Jon Anza’s picture and the question “where is Jon?”

The campaign met with the Spanish authorities and media’s complete silence but several reports published by French journalists over the past months confirmed what everybody in the Basque Country suspected.

The case is now under investigation by the French authorities but numerous questions have arisen. According to the information released by the authorities on April 29th Jon Anza was found on the street and taken to hospital were he died on May 11th. He arrived to Toulouse by train on April 18th. Where was he for 11 days? Why did no one report it? Why wasn’t he included on the missing persons list? Why has he been found now?

The whole protocol failed since the very moment Jon Anza was found on the street. Even the case’s French prosecutor can’t explain it and now the case is under secret and is being supervised by a judge. All hypotheses are open and the only one dismissed has been the Spanish Interior Minister’s one.

People took to the streets in the Basque Country as soon as the news emerged. The largest demonstration took place in Jon Anza’s home town Donostia/San Sebastian on Sunday 14th. 8,000 people marched to demand the truth.

On Monday 15th about 100 people travelled to Toulouse to support Jon Anza’s family and demand to have the family’s doctor present at the autopsy. This right was denied by the French authorities and the police attacked the supporters outside the hospital with tear gas.

The Spanish authorities have denied any involvement in the disappearance and have threatened to prosecute those who imply the opposite. A relative of Jon Anza was called to appear before the judge on Monday for the Sunday’s march.

French policeman killed in a shooting with ETA members

A French policeman was shot dead in an incident which happened outside Paris on Tuesday 16th.

According to police sources around eight alleged ETA members stole two cars from a car dealer and shortly after one of the cars were stopped by police officers. When they were arresting the suspects the other car arrived and there was a shooting which resulted on the death of one of the policemen.

One of the alleged ETA members was arrested and the rest escaped by car and on foot.

This is the first time ETA has killed a French policeman. The French and Spanish authorities condemned the killing and promised to be implacable with ETA.

The Basque Pro-Independence Left regretted the incident and asked ETA to reaffirm its commitment with the democratic process.

On March 20th ETA released a statement where they said they are ready to give all the steps needed to help the political change. The statement was dated before the Jon Anza’s body had been found and also before the fatal shooting.

Nationalist vote divided in the north

The French regional elections had some different outcomes for the Basque nationalist parties who contested separately.

The Basque Nationalist Party emerged as the main party among the nationalists with 7,000 votes. The Pro-Independence Left called for a vote of protest and got 4,000 as the Basque Country doesn’t have its own regional institutions. Other nationalists supported the green Europe Ecologie platform.

Outside the majority of polling stations the platform in favour of Basque institutions organised a parallel un-official referendum where the 96% of the 27,000 people who took part said to be in favour of some sort of official recognition for the Basque Country. The referendum organiser congratulated those who took part and criticised the French authorities for trying to ban it.

New pro-independence youth organization launched

100 young people from many different organizations launched a new Basque pro-independence youth group on March 11th. The new group called GaztEHerria (similar to “Basque Youth Nation”) announced that it will work for independence from a left wing perspective and that it will organise an all day long national event on Good Friday in Durango as a first step of what they want to become a mass movement.

Prisoners in hunger strike

From the beginning of the year the Basque political prisoners are immersed in a campaign of protests against their deteriorating situation and in favour of political status. Prisoners have held hunger strikes, lock ups in their cells, picket lines, communications strikes...

Nine prisoners have been in hunger strike since the 1st of March in the French jail of Fleury.

Basques in extradition danger.

London-based Basque pro-independence youth Garikoitz Ibarluzea was arrested last week in his work place by police and has been in jail since.

A campaign has been already organised and can be joined on Facebook:

He appeared via video link in the London Court last Monday to hear about the Spanish extradition request against him. Supporters outside the court buildings claimed the charges are false and based on testimonies gained under torture. Garikoitz himself was tortured in 2002 and moved to London in 2006.

Another Basque facing extradition risk is Belfast based Iñaki de Juana. His case is on appeal at the Belfast High Court. An emergency public meeting regarding the extradition of Iñaki de Juana to Spain will be held on Friday night, March 26, at 7.30pm at Caulfield’s Bar in west Belfast.

The meeting will be addressed by speakers including a Sinn Fein Assembly member, Michael Culbert from ex-prisoners’ support group Coiste, and Iñaki de Juana’s legal team. Veteran Republican activist Joe Austin will chair the discussion.

The event aims to highlight the grave miscarriage of justice that is unfolding, and to show that the local community is rallying behind Iñaki.

The discussion will be followed by a solidarity night with local musicians performing.