15 April 2010

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.

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