10 November 2010

Basque Info 10/11/10

• International campaign for the immediate release of Arnaldo Otegi launched
• Pro-Independence alliances strengthened
• Prisoner’s relatives demand the end of the dispersal policy without delay

International campaign for the immediate release of Arnaldo Otegi launched

Last Friday more than 250 well-known people from different political backgrounds from the Basque Country, including politicians, trade unionists, writers, journalists, sports people and others, launched a petition to ask for the release of the Basque Pro-Independence leader Arnaldo Otegi.

He was arrested and imprisoned along another five Batasuna members one year ago when they were about to launch an internal debate within the Pro-Independence movement to discuss the future strategy.

The petition signatories think that there are no legal grounds to hold him and that his release could contribute to bring about a new peace scenario in the Basque Country.

On Saturday an international campaign for the release of the well-known politician was also presented.

This campaign was born during the World Social Forum of Sao Paulo, organised in Buenos Aires last August. The organisers said that Otegi is a “political prisoner" because "there is no other objective reason for his arrest than preventing him from working for his political ideas.”

In coming weeks they will hold an event in Madrid and before the end of the year they will meet with European left-wing parties to try to take this initiative to the European Parliament. They are committed to continuing to gather support "until the outcry forces the Spanish Government to release Otegi."

More than 600 international personalities have already signed the petition including USA former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

Meantime, this Thursday Arnaldo Otegi will be tried along with another two Pro-Independence leaders in the Spanish Special Court accused of “glorifying terrorism” for launching a peace proposal in front of 15,000 people at a rally in Donostia/San Sebastian exactly six years ago. That peace proposal led to the 2005-2007 failed negotiation process with the Spanish authorities.

At the same time and ironically enough, former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez admitted last Sunday in an extensive interview that, among other things, he could have blown up the entire ETA’s leadership in 1992 and that he also ordered the release of a Basque citizen kidnapped by the Spanish death squads. All political parties from the Spanish right wing to the Basque nationalists immediately accused him of being “Mister X”, the leader of the Dirty War against the Pro-Independence movement.

Although this is not the first time he publicly glorifies state terrorism, he has never been brought to court.

Pro-Independence alliances strengthened
Despite the criminalization campaign, which recently included a motion passed in the Spanish Senate against reaching agreements with Batasuna, and the hardening of the Parties’ Law to prevent them from taking part in elections, the broad pro-independence movement continues to gain momentum.

Last June the Pro-Independence Left signed a strategic agreement with the social-democratic nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity) to work together for a Basque progressive independent republic. Since then lot of work has been done and this week for example, conferences have been organised together across the Basque Country and even Argentina to promote that alliance and announce more steps for the near future. This includes a programme of 100 proposals for political, social and economic change.

Last Saturday the Basque pro-independence citizens network Independentistak held a historical meeting to organise and agree objectives for the coming years. This is the first time that pro-independence people from different political backgrounds came together in such a fashion. The network appointed a 46 person group as coordinators and aim at getting 500 local coordinators, 5,000 members, many more thousands of supporters, along with up to 100,000 Euros collected by 2012. The network will be based on a horizontal and democratic structure and will work away from political parties and elections.

Prisoner’s relatives demand the end of the dispersal policy without delay
Last Saturday the association of Basque political prisoners and escapees’ relatives Etxerat! (Back home!) organised their 10th national AGM. More than 700 relatives and friends took part.

They reaffirmed their commitment to continue working day and night until all their loved ones are back home despite the criminalization campaign and threats against them. They suspect they could be the next target for the Spanish repressive campaign. In order to show them support and warn of the imminent danger, representatives of different political parties and trade unions appeared along with them at a press conference last week.

Etxerat! said it’s time to end one of the darkest pages in Basque history by bringing to an end the dispersal policy applied by the Spanish and French states on more than 750 political prisoners and their families. The prisoners are currently scattered in more than 85 jails at hundreds of miles from home.

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