Basque Info 27/01/10
• Basque political prisoners start hunger strike
• Historic rally against the High Speed Train
• Fourth session of the Egunkaria trial.
• Five people arrested accused of being ETA members
-Basque political prisoners start hunger strike.
The Basque Political Prisoners Association announced on Monday 25th that from that day the 746 prisoners will embark on a hunger strike. Previously they have been engaged in other protests such as refusing to leave their cells, refusing to take visits, make phone calls or receive letters, and forming picket lines in the recreation yards.
On the 18th of January they protested and demanded information concerning the disappearance of former political prisoner Jon Anza who went missing on the 18th of April last year. They will continue organising such protests every month until the disappearance is resolved.
With the protests they also wanted to demand the end of isolation and to show solidarity to the comrades who are kept alone in different jails. The association sent their full support to Lorentxa Gimon who started a hunger strike on the 2nd of January to demand her transfer to another French prison where more comrades are kept. She has lost 10 kilos so far.
They announced the hunger strike’s main demand is political status.
More details are expected to be released in coming days.
Meanwhile on the outside, a press conference took place on Saturday organised by former prisoners and members of the prisoner’s solidarity movement. A speaker at the event told journalists of the hard living conditions the Basque political prisoners have to endure and stressed they are part and consequence of the conflict, and in that way they are crucial in the resolution of it. They encouraged social and political forces to commit themselves to bringing about a new political scenario in the Basque Country based on democracy.
The Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the Basque prisoners won’t get their objectives and highlighted the Spanish prison regime is the hardest in Europe with maximum sentences of 40 years to be fulfilled to the end.
-Historical rally against the High Speed Train.
More than 15,000 people rallied last Saturday against the construction of High Speed Train (HST) lines in the north and south of the Basque Country. The rally is the largest to have being organised so far in this long campaign.
Another important aspect was that the demonstration started in Hendaia, in the French occupied northern Basque Country, which then crossed the artificial border and ended in Irun, in the Spanish occupied southern Basque Country.
Those who attended the demonstration were of many different backgrounds including mayors, councillors, farmers, concerned citizens and even some international delegations from European groups fighting locally against High Speed Train infrastructures.
The main speaker Michel Hiriart, on behalf of the Lapurdi/Labourd Northern Province’s towns’ partnership said the project is dramatic and detrimental to the communities and the land. Other speakers also demanded an end to the criminalization of the campaign by the French and Spanish authorities, and asked for the right of the people to have a say and be able to decide about the construction.
The campaign against the HST in the Basque Country is very popular and focuses on the environmental, cultural, energetic, social, and economic damages of the construction of such a massive infrastructure in a small and mountainous country. Campaigners condemned it as a project to enrich the private constructors and to serve the economical and social elites. They demand transparency, public debate and the respect to the people’s decisions.
Local direct action and peaceful protests take place every week across the country but ETA’s attacks against the works have made the headlines very often.
-Fourth session of the Egunkaria trial.
Imanol Murua-Uria, a former member of staff of Egunkaria and a witness for the defence, denied that ETA had said that Martxelo Otamendi should be appointed as the newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief. This is one of the arguments put forward by the prosecution. The journalist told the judge that he had suggested Otamendi to Joan Mari Torrealdai, the Chairman of Egunkaria, S.A.’s Board of Directors, in 1993. Otamendi was appointed as Editor-in-Chief of Egunkaria in June of that year and remained in that post until the paper was closed down on the orders of Judge Juan del Olmo in February 2003.
Murua-Uria eta Zabaleta were the first witnesses called by the defence counsel to give evidence. Before them the last witnesses called by the private prosecution gave evidence. One of them was Txomin Aizpurua, a one-time ETA member and former prisoner. Aizpurua declared that he did not know of any reports going back to the time of the setting up of the newspaper. Yet according to the prosecution, documents about Egunkaria had been seized from him. The newspaper was set up in 1990 and Aizpurua was arrested a year later.
The two Guardia Civil officers who had participated in the arrests of Otamendi and Txema Auzmendi were called by the prosecution to give evidence. The first one, who took part in the arrest of Egunkaria’s Editor-in-Chief, initially said he had no recollection of this and had to be shown the record of arrest before he admitted that this had been the case. He then asked who Otamendi was, and went on to say that copies of Zutabe (ETA’s internal newssheets) had been found during the searches made of him, but he did not remember where they had been found.
The prosecution and the defence may submit their findings to the panel of judges at the end of February.
On Saturday 23 January the indicted received the broad support at Arantzazu monastery of prominent figures in society.
In Ireland there will be several talks organised by the Irish Basque Solidarity Committees in coming days. The main speaker will be Ainara Mendiola, the coordinator of the International Campaign in Favour of Egunkaria. The talks will take place in Derry on Saturday 30th January at 12pm in Cultúrlann, on Monday 1st February in Belfast’s Queen’s University’s Students Union’s Club Room 1 at 1pm and in Cultúrlann at 7.30pm on the same night, and on Tuesday 2nd February talks will also be organised in Dublin.
-Five people arrested accused of being ETA members.
Five men on their early 30’s were arrested and taken incommunicado by the Basque-Spanish police on Tuesday morning in several coastal towns. They have been accused of being members of an ETA unit and made responsible for several attacks including a bomb against a police barracks in 2008.