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.