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

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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.