17 March 2010

Basque Info 3/03/10

Basque Info 3/03/10

New pro-independence movement launched

A new broad pro-independence grassroots movement called “Independentistak” was launched last Saturday at a press conference. 70 of the 140 different promoters were present at the event. They come from very different walks of life but agree on the urgent need to unite in favour of Basque independence.

The initial promoters are well known activists, journalists, writers, actors, sports people, politicians...etc. They now want to expand the grassroots movement to all cities and towns in the Basque Country but they will also work in the international arena.

They said they want to reorganize the pro-independence forces but they don’t want to become a political party. Independentistak will work as a pro-independence citizen’s network through exclusively political means but using innovative ways.

They defended the need for independence as the best option for the Basque Country’s future. Nevertheless they will also work together with other bodies that are in favour of a democratic scenario including self-determination for the Basque Country.

As a first step they will call on all pro-independence people to take part in a unified Aberri Eguna (Basque National Day) next Easter Sunday.

Last week the democratic process also received international support. A press conference was organised in the European Parliament to relaunch the Friendship, a group of MEP’s for a democratic resolution to the Basque conflict.

The group was initially launched in 2006 but it has been reshuffled after last year’s European elections. The 12 MEP’s, who belong to three different European political parties, welcomed the conclusions of the Basque Pro-Independence Left’s internal debate and called on the Spanish authorities to engage in a peace process.

The well known South African solicitor and international conflicts mediator Brian Currin also spoke at two public conferences in Madrid and the Basque Country last week. He said that the Basque Pro-Independence Left’s new proposals and commitments are very important. He also asked the Spanish government to respond positively and assured international support will be available if the process becomes stable.

De Juana extradition ruling ‘grossly inhumane’
The decision to allow the extradition of Basque ex-prisoner Iñaki de Juana to Spain is “grossly inhumane” and ignores evidence that the Spanish authorities are knowingly abusing the extradition process, spokesperson for the Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign Kevin Morrison said today.
“The judge expressed confidence in the Spanish judicial system which we believe is unwarranted,” Morrison said. The Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign would continue to support Iñaki through his appeal against the judgment, he added.
Risk of death
“During the hearing last November, psychological expert Dr Adrian Grounds testified that Iñaki would face a very serious deterioration in his health and likely, if not certain, death through hunger strike if he was extradited,” Morrison said.
Dr Grounds is a senior university lecturer at Cambridge University and an expert on the impact of imprisonment on the psychological health of detainees.
“During the hearing, the defence also pointed out that the Spanish authorities were knowingly abusing the extradition process because they knew they did not have any evidence against Iñaki, and that the case was politically motivated.
“In court, Dr Grounds said that Iñaki’s previous experiences in Spanish prisons – including repeated beatings and being held in solitary confinement for more than 17 of his total 21 years in jail – had been extremely traumatic.
“The expert also cited the well-known 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.
“This prison experience has left Iñaki suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and absolute exhaustion.
“Dr Grounds said that to return him to the Spanish prison system would very likely result in Iñaki 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 Iñaki’s inability to return to the conditions that had caused his exhaustion and PTSD,” Morrison added.
“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.
“The Don’t Extradite the Basques Campaign will step up its efforts to build awareness of the facts of this case, and public support for Iñaki during the appal process, in light of this ruling,” Morrison concluded.
During the November hearing, Edward Fitzgerald QC, defending, 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.”
Spurious charges
More than 1,000 people have now signed the petition which demands that the British government reject the Spanish government’s extradition requests against Iñaki de Juana and Arturo Villanueva, including MEP Bairbre de Brún, journalist John Pilger, civil rights activist Fearghas Ó hÍr and lawyer Professor Phil Scraton.
The Spanish authorities are trying to extradite former prisoner and hunger-striker, Iñaki de Juana, 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 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.

Repression continues with more arrests and torture reports

Last week two people were arrested in the Basque Country following a police operation which was connected to another eight people being detained in previous weeks. As in previous cases, the arrested reported torture after being held incommunicado for five days.

Another three alleged ETA members were arrested in the northern French region of Normandy last Sunday. As what usually happens after police operations of this kind, the Spanish Interior Minister said one of the arrested was the ETA’s operations’ top leader. After months saying the opposite, he also said that it can’t be denied that there are new political moves within the Pro-Independence movement.

The 2009 Repression Report for the province of Navarre was launched last week and it shows the increase of repression with a record result of 106 political prisoners out of a population of half a million people.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the court buildings in six Basque towns on Friday morning and then presented criticism for the treatment they receive when visiting their relatives in jail. Hundreds more took part in the weekly vigils in the evening across the Basque Country.

Election campaign starts in the north

300 people took part in the first event of the French regional elections campaign organised by the pro-independence left coalition Euskal Herria Bai (Basque Country Yes) in the northern village of Senpere.

Members of the two main nationalist parties in the northern Basque Country addressed the audience along with members of the LAB trade union.

They called on northern Basques to give a protest vote against the French authority’s attitude of contempt towards the Basque Country’s demands for self-government.

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