23 July 2010



BASQUE INFO 14 & 21/07/10

• Pro-Independence solidarity and strength displayed in two nations
• Udalbiltza case begins with great show of support
• Youth mobilise for independence during the summer despite criminalization
• Prisoner loses 20 kilos on hunger strike

Pro-Independence solidarity and strength displayed in two nations

More than 10,000 people rallied in Donostia San Sebastian on the 10th of July to demand self-determination. The demonstration had been called by three Left pro-Independence parties to show solidarity in addition to the Catalan people who were demonstrating in Barcelona at the same time. Over one million people took part in the largest demonstration for self-government in Catalonia to protest against the Spanish authorities’ latest attack on Catalan autonomy.

Representatives of both nations attended the other’s rally in Donostia and Barcelona.

In Donostia the speakers said the demonstration was another step in the building of a broad pro-independence movement in the Basque Country. They said that the Country is on the move towards a new political scenario with resolution and commitment. They also called upon all political and social agencies and trade unions to join forces and establish alliances to work in the same direction.

Udalbiltza case begins with great show of support
On the 15th of July a trial started in the Spanish national court in Madrid against 22 Basque former councillors and mayors for their work in Udalbitza, the first Basque national institution. Udalbiltza was created in 1999 by 2,000 nationalist elected representatives to promote nation-building across the Basque Country. Since then the institution has been involved in many different projects to promote basque culture, true national bodies and help economic developing in deprived regions.

Now the 22 former elected representatives are facing between 15 and 20 years in jail as they are accused of being members of ETA for their political, public and peaceful work within Udalbiltza.

A broad support campaign has been organised and there have been many public expressions of support from different sections such as political parties, trade unions, culture, sport organisations and individuals and even from the international arena.

Around 10,000 people marched in Bilbao last Saturday to support the indicted.
There were representatives of all the Basque nationalist parties and even some Councillors of the Spanish Labour Party (in Government in Madrid and in the Basque autonomous region) took part in the demonstration.

The Egunkaria case is in everybody´s mind. The huge and broad support shown by Basque society brought about the absolving of all the indicted by the Spanish national court. The same lack of evidence and the clear political nature of both cases prove that the Udalbiltza case should also be thrown out. Nevetheless the solicitors have protested the attack on the right to defence as the Tribunal has refused to admit two experts’ testimonies and all the 165 documentary evidence, allowing only 20 witnesses out of the 140 presented by the defence. Among those prevented from taking part in the trial as witnesses are Irish priest Alec Reid, Scottish National Party MP Lloyd Quinan and former Idaho Senator Pete Cenarrusa.
The trial will continue this week and will then break for the summer until September.

Youth mobilise for independence during the summer despite criminalization
Basque youth will be very busy this summer as pro-independence mountain marches have been organised in every province of the Basque Country. The marches have the common slogan of “Wave the red flag!” and will last for at least three days.
Many more pro-Independence local events have been organised by the youth in festivals across the Basque Country.
Organised by the Basque pro-Independence youth organization SEGI, 200 youth marched in the northern Basque town of Biarritz on the 14th of July, the French national day, to denounce the French state and the capitalist system for their responsibility in the assimilation and oppression process in the Basque Country.
Meanwhile seventeen youth activists from Donostia San Sebastian have been tried in the Spanish National Court in Madrid for their alleged work in SEGI. Twenty-six were arrested in 2005 and most of them reported being tortured before being sent to jail. Now they are waiting for their sentences which could be up to 8 years in prison. Over past years another sixteen police operations of this kind have taken place against the pro-Independence youth organization SEGI which is banned in the Southern Basque Country.

Prisoner loses 20 kilos on hunger strike
Basque political prisoner Arkaitz Agirregabiria ended a 33-day hunger-strike against solitary confinement last Monday after reaching an agreement with the Director of the French jail where he is held. He will at last be transferred to another jail with other comrades. He has lost 20 kilos during the protest.
Another two prisoners who were arrested with Arkaitz last May are still on hunger-strike for the same reason in other French jails and some other comrades have begun hunger-strikes in solidarity with them.
Another prisoner is on hunger-strike in a southern Spanish jail to protest against the prison guards’ harassment and another is on hunger-strike in Portugal to protest against the appalling living conditions in which he is held.

1 July 2010

Basque Info podcast

This week's Basque Info podcast is available now including the main news of the week and and an interview with Batasuna representative about the recently signed strategic agreement.

Basque Info 30/06/10

• Pro-independence workers fight back against Zapatero’s anti-labour measures
• Basque pro-independence activist arrested in Belfast
• Tributes to Basque refugees, murdered militants and prisoners

Pro-independence workers fight back against Zapatero’s anti-labour measures
Yesterday, Tuesday 29th, a general strike was organised in the southern Basque Country (under Spanish administration) by the Basque pro-independence trade unions, who have the majority of elected representatives in workers’ councils. The general strike was also supported by the Basque pro-independence left parties.

Last week the Spanish government passed several new legislative measures attacking workers’ rights. The Basque pro-independence trade unions immediately called a general strike.

Despite the deep economic crisis in the Spanish state and its impact on working people the only general strikes organised have been in the Basque Country. In June last year the Basque pro-independence trade unions organised a successful general strike followed by many demonstrations and campaigns in working places. Last month they also organised a public service general strike and finally yesterday they organised a yet another strike in all sectors. This time the Basque branch of the largest Spanish trade union also supported their call.

From the early hours of the morning groups of organised workers walked the industrial estates and participated in demonstrations and pickets. Later in the morning they joined students, clerical workers, pensioners and others to explain the issues to other citizens and remaining workers and to encourage them to join in the strike.

At midday around 65,000 people took part in demonstrations in the capital cities of the four Basque southern provinces. The slogan chosen for the day was “Stop impositions. Let’s defend our rights!” Representatives of trade unions told the large crowds that the Spanish Government’s new labour reform is the worst in 30 years. The legislation includes cuts in public services and pensions, reducing the workers’ redundancy payouts and other anti-labour measures.

The speakers also said that the general strike is not the end but the begining of a long and hard struggle that must be fought. They also spoke against social partnership as they consider it a mere tool of social control and blackmailing in the hands of the employers.

Thousands of people took also part in the evening demonstrations in the four capitals and in the many other local ones organised throughout the day.

The police charged against pickets in many places, especially in Bilbao and there were several arrests.

Basque pro-independence activist arrested in Belfast

At midnight last Thursday a Basque pro-independence activist was arrested by the police in Belfast in an operation assisted by the Spanish police.

He was then taken for interrogation to Antrim police station. The arrested person is Fermin Vila who stood for the European elections in 1994 as a pro-independence candidate for Herri Batasuna and reportedly has been on the run since 2000. He was also the Basque local councils’ spokesperson for demilitarization and represented the anti-conscription association.

Despite being released on Saturday on charges of “terrorist activities” in the north of Ireland he was immediately rearrested due to an existing European Arrest Warrant issued by the Spanish authorities.

During a preliminary hearing at Belfast Recorder's Court on Monday, his barrister Sean Devine said he would not be consenting to the extradition request. Judge Burgess said he was satisfied the defendant should be remanded in custody until the hearing of this matter.

A timetable for the case is expected to be agreed later this week, with a full hearing expected in September.

In a statement Fermin Vila said he was proud of his involvement in the Basque pro-independence struggle and that he was only sad to be jailed for being a Basque political refugee. He also stated his support for a peace process in the Basque Country and said there were many lessons to be learned from the Irish process.

Meanwhile, an appeal by another Basque pro-independence activist against an extradition order to face a charge of “glorifying terrorism” has been put on hold. Inaki de Juana, who was granted bail to live in Belfast, has not been seen since April. He was due to challenge a ruling that he should be returned to Spain for trial. But with his whereabouts unknown, judges in the Court of Appeal on Monday agreed to stay the case on the basis that it would be an abuse of process to go ahead with it.

Tributes to Basque refugees, murdered militants and prisoners
Today Wednesday 30th is thirty years since Basque political prisoner Jose Mari Sagardui “Gatza” was imprisoned. He is called “the Basque Mandela” as he is the longest-serving prisoner in Europe. His solicitors denounced his situation at a press conference last week and branded the Spanish authorities’ prison policy as cruel, inhumane and vindictive. He should have been released last year but instead, as is the case with many other Basque political prisoners, he has seen his sentence extended by new retroactive laws. Fifty-three Basque prisoners have already been in jail for more than 20 years and thirteen for more than 25 years.

Forty-nine year-old Basque political refugee Mikel Zalakain died last week after a short illness in Corsica. He left to escape repression in 1986. His entire family was then arrested and his father died in jail. Mikel was arrested in 1992 and spent one year in a French jail. After his release the French authorities ordered his confinement to Paris but he eventually broke the confinement and escaped to Corsica, where he spent the rest of his life on the run with his wife and son.

Both Gatza and Zalakain were remembered by the Pro-Independence movement and the weekly vigils in support of the prisoners.

A commemoration took place last weekend in the Basque Pyrenees to remember two Basque Volunteers who were murdered by the Spanish police there 20 years ago. Another volunteer was seriously wounded and was fortunate to survive the shots to his head at close range. The circumstances have never been officially clarified by the Spanish state.

A Basque prisoner’s mother and a friend who died in a road accident on their way to a prison visit 20 years ago were also commemorated over the weekend.

Basque Info 16 & 23/06/10

• Pro-independence agreement of historical significance signed
• Struggle for civil and political rights receives new boost
• Growing international support for the Basque Country
• Prisoners in struggle receive support

Pro-independence agreement of historical significance signed

The Basque Pro-Independence Left and the social-democratic nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity) last Sunday signed a strategic agreement to achieve a Basque independent state.

The agreement has been branded as of historic importance as it is the first one of its kind in the Basque Country and also due to the different traditions and backgrounds both forces represent.

The agreement was signed during a two-hour long political meeting in the Euskalduna Congress Hall in Bilbao including speeches, traditional dance and music and videos. Three hundred members of each party attended, along with representatives from political parties from around the world like Ireland (Sinn Féin), Palestine, Flanders, Catalonia...

Months of common work and debate have led to the signing of this historic agreement. In it both parties commit themselves to develop unified action and strategy to achieve an independent Basque state through a peaceful, civic and democratic confrontation with the Spanish and French states. They set as a priority the resolution of the armed and political conflict through dialogue and negotiation.

The agreement declares the need for new political institutions for the Basque Country and it sets as an objective the achievement of social justice and equality between men and women.

The agreement is open to other progressive pro-independence forces to join in with special reference to the trade union movement. The signatories also talk of the need for joining forces with other pro-self-determination parties. The agreement also states the intention of respecting the differences and autonomy of each party and it highlights the need for new combined electoral platforms.

Pro-Spanish political forces reacted with threats of repression and among nationalist parties some welcomed it and some others demanded the end of ETA’s armed struggle.

Struggle for civil and political rights receives new boost

On the 11th of June dozens of people from different political backgrounds held a press conference to launch the conclusion of months of debate around the campaign for civil and political rights.

In January Adierazi EH!/Express Basque Country! was launched at a massive political event and since then they have been working at the national and local levels to build a grassroots movement in favour of basic democratic rights.

With the launch of the conclusions which include the definition of a bill of human, civil and political rights they want to boost the struggle for democracy and peace in the Basque Country.

This initiative is born out of the state of emergency the Basque Country lives under and the need of strong and organised grassroots response.

During the press conference they showed their support for those indicted in the Udalbiltza case who are facing up to 15 years in jail for their political work as local authority councillors and mayors in favour of the national construction of the Basque country. Political, labour and community organizations have also shown their support publicly over the past few weeks as the trial approaches. At the press conference Adierazi EH!/Express BC! also showed their support to the dozens of pro-independence youth who face many years in jail in soon-to-come trials. 3,000 people demonstrated last Saturday in Donostia/San Sebastian in favour of those same youth.

Three Basque pro-independence youth who escaped from the massive police operation in November appeared in Rome two weeks ago at a press conference to denounce the Spanish repression at the same time as Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero was due to meet his Italian counterpart Berlusconi. They were immediately arrested and imprisoned and are now facing extradition to the Spanish state.

Growing international support for the Basque Country

Representatives of Basque solidarity committees from across Europe gathered in the Basque coastal town of Zarautz ten days ago for their annual meeting. There they were briefed on the political situation, exchanged experiences, agreed new initiatives and showed once again their support to all of those struggling for a free Basque Country.

Year after year new solidarity committees are created and all of them organise an international week of solidarity in February as well as many other local campaigns and events.

Following the example of MEPs in Brussels, Swiss MPs launched last week a working group in the national Parliament to support a peace process in the Basque Country.

Prisoners in struggle receive support

Four Basque political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in different Spanish and French jails to protest against their isolation from other comrades.

Dozens of other political prisoners have once again lost their visits as their relatives refused intimate body searches.

Despite police harassment 130 people from the province of Navarre traveled 1,200 kilometres to the southern Spanish jail of Puerto, near Gibraltar, to show their support for the Basque prisoners who are kept there. Another bus from the Elgoibar town went to Castellon on the Mediterranean coast.

Hundreds of people took part in a march in Baiona, hundreds more attended the Solidarity Day in the Urola valley and dozens of local vigils were organised across the Basque Country showing the Basque prisoners do not stand alone.