8 October 2010

Basque Info 6/10/10

• Huge Demonstration for human, civil and political rights
• European HR Court condemns Spain for not investigating tortures
• New police operation
• New press statement of Brian Currin
• Basque political prisoner tries to commit suicide

Huge Demonstration for human, civil and political rights

Last Saturday 46,000 people took part in a demonstration in favour of human, political and civil rights in Bilbao. They also protested against the banning by the Spanish authorities of two previous marches, which had the same slogan.

The majority of Basque political parties and trade unions supported the demonstration, which was branded by some as the beginning of a new era in the Basque Country.

Some of the political leaders who attended the march stressed the importance of such popular mobilisations in order to put pressure on the Spanish government to make it desist from its negative attitude towards a democratic process.

Banners demanding the release of the recently arrested pro-independence activists could also be seen along the march. People shouted chants in favour of the Basque political prisoners and independence.

European Court of Human Rights condemns Spain for not investigating torture

The ECHR condemnation of Spain refers to the case of Basque citizen Mikel San Argimiro who was arrested, held incommunicado and tortured for five days by the Guardia Civil (militarised police corps) in 2002. The sentence orders Spain to pay 23,000 euros for failing to investigate the complaints of torture. The sentence is likely to establish a precedent in the matter because Spain almost systematically does not investigate claims of torture while in detention.

The forensic report in San Argimiro's torture case established that he had many serious injuries, which were dismissed.

The European tribunal cannot judge whether torture has taken place or not, because there is no investigation. However, it can judge that failing to investigate claims of torture is a serious fault and a breach of article 3 of the European Covenant on Human Rights which forbids torture.

There is a long list of similar cases involving Basques as victims. Next in line are the well-known cases of Unai Romano, whose photos with his face totally deformed by the beatings caused a tremendous impact, and Martxelo Otamendi, director of Basque language newspaper Egunkaria, which is one of the most aggravating cases of persecution against freedom of speech and linguistic diversity.

New police operation

Just a few hours after seven pro-independence activists belonging to the internationalist organisation Askapena were arrested three people were arrested and accused of forming an ETA unit in Villabona, near Donostia/San Sebastian. Explosives and weapons were said to be found by the police.

Five out of the seven Askapena members were sent to jail after several days in the hands of the police and two of the three alleged members were also imprisoned. Two of them denounced being brutally tortured while under the incommunicado regime.

During the week many protests were organised at the home towns of those arrested and there were also protests and solidarity events organised across the world to support Askapena and the arrested activists.

The leadership of the Basque pro-independence trade union LAB said at a press conference last week that they are being harassed and are under constant surveillance by the Spanish police. They demanded their right to do their job freely and demanded the Spanish authorities to change their repressive attitude and promote a democratic peace process.

Last Friday a Belfast judge dismissed the European Arrest Warrant against Basque activist Fermin Vila. He was arrested in Belfast last July following a Spanish request based on “terrorism charges”. He has been held in Maghaberry jail since then. The Spanish authorities have now produced two new warrants.

Around 100 people attended a solidarity and fundraising night to support Fermin Vila and Askapena in west Belfast on Friday. On Saturday 30 people took part in a five-a-side football tournament with the same aims.

New press statement from Brian Currin

International mediator Brian Currin announced last week: “Each one of the endorsers of the Brussels Declaration has been consulted on ETA’s recent statements and direct response to the Brussels Declaration. Their plea to ETA remains the same as it was when the Brussels Declaration was issued in March this year, namely that they declare a unilateral, verifiable and permanent ceasefire.”

Brian Currin also stated “that as a result of logistical difficulties in working with a large group of individuals in different parts of the world and the need to engage on the issues quickly and efficiently it has been decided, in consultation with various interested parties to establish an International Contact Group of 5 people. Details of this group, it members, mandate and role will be announced during the course of October.”

Basque political prisoner tries to commit suicide

Basque political prisoner Txus Martin cut his veins on the 25th of September in an attempt at suicide, the prisoners’ support group anounced last week. The group also denounced the harsh conditions he has been subjected to, especially over the past five years in French jails, which have caused him psychological illnesses.

As happens every week, more than 50 vigils were held in towns across the Basque Country last Friday to support the more than 700 political prisoners held in 85 jails in France and Spain.


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