21 March 2012

Basque Info 6th-19th March

In this issue
 ETA calls on French Government to initiate dialogue
 Women take to the streets for their rights
 Amnesty International criticizes Spanish abuses against Basques
 Recognition for the northern Basque Country on the agenda
 MEP’s support conflict resolution

ETA calls on French Government to initiate dialogue

ETA recently sent a statement to the French news agency AFP. Four months have passed since ETA declared the definitive cessation of its armed activity and the call on the French Government to open up a direct dialogue about the consequences of the conflict. The organization wishes to make their reflections known to French society.

In the statement they remarked on the opportunity opened to solve the long conflict and to build a just and lasting peace. For that they believe that the French government has to assume its responsibilities and assume that the “Basque problem” is also their problem. They stated that the French state denies political recognition to the Basque provinces under its administration.

They also mentioned the implication of the dirty war against Basque militants and the French Government’s alliance with the Spanish state in the repressive strategy against the Basque resistance. The armed organization believes that in these new times this strategy is senseless and they call on the French Government to leave it aside and take steps towards the definitive resolution of the conflict.

They commented on the value of the Internation Declaration for conflict Resolution of Aiete, signed by well-know international personalities last October, as the roadmap for the solution. ETA responded in a positive way to that declaration, showing their willingness to establish direct dialogue with the French and Spanish states to deal with the consequences of the conflict.

ETA hope that the French state responds positively to this approach and as soon as possible begins a direct dialogue with ETA as a way to deal with the consequences of the conflict in territory under French administration. This is the path for achieving a true and lasting peace.

Finally ETA acknowledges and expresses gratitude to all those in the French state who have expressed their solidarity and support for the struggle in the Basque Country.

The French Government tried to play down the importance of this communiqué and repeated their intention to collaborate with the Spanish authorities, trying to make it seem as if it’s a Spanish problem only, without any French state responsibility in the conflict.

Women take to the streets for their rights

Thursday 8th March marked Internation Women’s Day and as with every year the Basque feminist movement organised demonstrations across the country. Thousands of people, mainly women, took to the streets of most towns to demand equality for women and to denounce the devastating effects of the capitalist crisis. They also remembered the 99 female Basque political prisoners.

AI critizices Spainish abuses against Basques

An Amnesty International delegation lead by its General Secretary Salil Shetty visited Spain last week and met with government officials, judiciary and the main political parties.

At the end of the series of meetings they spoke to the press. There Mr. Shetty denounced the serious abuses committed by the police forces in their fight against ETA, critizised the banning of Sortu (Basque Pro-Independence Left’s party), demanded the repatriation of Basque politial prisoners and asked for a more flexible approach and open mind to address the conflict resolution.

According to AI there is a new scenario open after ETA’s decision last October to end the armed campaign and therefore full advantage should be taken in order to promote human rights without leaving any space open to impunity for those carryin out abuses.

Mr Shetty said he was disappointed by the Spanish Government’s current position.

Recognition for the northern Basque Country on the agenda

Over recent weeks the need for Basque recognition in the form of some sort of local government institution has toppped the political agenda in the north of the Basque Country. First it was Sarkozy’s visit, then the protest blockade of main roads and now the Basque pro-independence left parties asked the regional council of elected representatives to continue with their work but stated that in the end it should be put to the people in referendum to decide about kind of institution they want.

The nationalist parties said that an assembly elected by the people and with wide powers should be put in place to organise the three Basque northern provinces under French administration. They also asked for official recognition of the Basque language, Euskara.

Despite the majority Basque support for recognition Paris has historically treated those demands with contempt.

MEPs support conflict resolution

At a press conference held last week in Brussels, 27 MEP’s showed their support for the conclusions of the International Conference for Conflict Resolution organised last October in the Aiete Palace of Donostia-San Sebastian. They asked that the European institutions take part in the process and announced initiatives for the near future.

Basque Info 22nd February – 5th March

• The Abertzale Left takes another step on the path of a definitive resolution of the conflict

• Solidarity with the Basque Country around the world

The Abertzale Left takes another step on the path of a definitive resolution of the conflict

In a mass public event the Abertzale (pro-independence) Left presented a document which is another step in the consolidation of the new political scenario opened in the Basque Country after the definitive cessation of armed activity by ETA. The document titled “Solution is Blowing in the Wind” gives clear direction for the transition of a scenario of violence, to a true and lasting peace.

With the presentation of this document and its contents, the Abertzale Left takes a new unilateral step in its commitment to reaching a scenario of a true and lasting peace.

In the first part of the document, the Abertzale Left proposes that, as has happened in other conflicts throughout the world, a Transitional Justice will be necessary which will establish a number of political and legal measures that will help develop a democratic process.

Another important proposal covered in the document is the creation of a Truth Commission of an international and independent nature, politically impartial, with open participation and without any exclusion. The Basque Country needs to know the truth, the whole truth about the political conflict and its legacy. This will undoubtedly contribute to a lasting peace and reconciliation. The Abertzale Left is committed to supporting the creation of this commission.

They spoke clearly about the painful consequences that the violent expressions connected to the conflict have caused. They affirm that in order to reach peace and justice it will be necessary to vent all this pain. The Abertzale left recognizes all the pain and suffering that the different components of the conflict have caused in the Basque Country. At this point they make self-criticism and “recognizes that through its declarations or acts it may have projected an image of insensitivity towards the pain caused by the actions of ETA. In response, it regrets the pain that it may have unwillingly added with its political position.”

In this context the Abertzale Left considers that “the states of Spain and France must acknowledge the pain caused to the Basque Country and to all the thousands of men and women in this country that have suffered” their actions.

In the last part of the text the Abertzale Left remarks on the value of dialogue and democratic agreement as a way of resolution and a guarantee of the situation not evolving again. For that, they propose a dialogue based on the Mitchell Principles and call on other Basque political formations to make these principals their own.

A reflection on the importance of the act was the presence of Alex Maskey representing Irish Sinn Féin and Kopeng Obed Bapela, Deputy Minister of the South African government and representing the African National Congress. Both spoke in the act and showed their support for the path taken by the Abertzale Left and the process of resolving the conflict. Given their experience in conflict resolution in their own countries; they have all forged ahead with the objective of creating a peaceful settlement.

They admitted that the road will be full of difficulties but they urged caution, and to continue working to achieve a scenario of peace and justice.

Solidarity with the Basque Country around the world

Numerous acts took place during the 6th International Week of Solidarity with the Basque Country, organized together with the Basque pro-independence internationalist organization Askapena and the collective of Friends of the Basque Country – Euskal Herriaren Lagunak (EHL).

Many and various events were organized in different places by the solidarity committees in the past week. In Berlin, Milan, Dublin, Paris, London, Mexico City, Barcelona, Madrid, Argentina, Belfast, Bern, Edinburgh amongst others; different activities took place with thousands of people participating. Concerts, demonstrations, popular meals, all have served for those interested in the current situation of the Basque Country and to show solidarity with their struggle.

Other news in brief:

 Last Saturday thousands of people took part in the annual march for justice for the five workers murdered by the Spanish police in Gasteiz-Vitoria on the 3rd March 1976. At the end of the march the Basque-Spanish police charged against the youth who had sat on the road: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pReXFZHTjoM

 Last weekend more than 500 women took part in the Basque pro-independence women's 5th Feminist Encounter organized by Bilgune Feminista in the small town of Leitza. During the three days' meetings they discussed about the new political time in the Basque Country and the role feminism should play. Guest speakers came from Ireland, El Salvador and Palestine. They also organised workshops on sexuality, self-defense, new economic and social feminist models, prisoners, food sovereignty, prostitution...

 More than 20,000 people took part in a national demonstration organised by the Basque pro-independence trade unions last Saturday in Bilbao against the cuts and in favor of social rights. This was a great display of strength ahead the general strike these same trade unions have called on the 29th March.

 Iñaki Igerategi and Inaxio Otaño who were arrested two weeks ago were sent to jail after being held incommunicado for three days by the Spanish police. When they were finally taken before the judge they told him they had been constantly beaten, threatened, deprived from sleep, drugged and sexually abused.

 Two Basque political refugees were arrested in separate French police operations in the northern Basque Country over the past few days. Both are now fighting the European Arrest Warrant to prevent extradition to Spain. The arrests have been denounced by many parties as yet another attack on the democratic process.

 1,200 people blocked northern Basque roads in nine different places last Saturday to demand Basque recognition and the right to have their own institutions. The northern Basque Country is included within the French Béarn department.

 Last week Basque pro-independence supporters confronted and disrupted French Prime Minister Sarkozy during an election campaign visit to the northern Basque Country (under French administration): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KZjCRm94Hs&feature=related and http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uOf8H8N6au8#!
Sarkozy had to seek refuge in a café to escape from the jeering.

Nevertheless answering a journalist, Sarkozy said, “I’ve always considered bring prisoners closer to their places of origin to be possible and desirable.” Although he qualified the possibility of bringing them closer, there was no doubt that it would be a positive measure.

 Gara newspaper published an interesting interview last Sunday with the leader of the Abertzale Left Pernando Barrena. In it he spoke of the political events of the last few months. The Declaration of Aiete, the Declaration of the Kursaal, etc. Without a doubt an extensive and interesting interview in which many of the keys to the current political scene were mentioned.

 The American Association of Jurists (AAJ) presented in the UN Council on Human Rights a declaration about Basque political prisoners in which they demanded that the dispersal policy and the situations of isolation end and that prisoners who suffer serious illnesses be freed, citing the specific cases of Txus Martin and Iñaki Erro.

22 February 2012

Basque Info 6th February – 21st February

In this issue:
 Imprisoned for another 10 years after already spending 20 in prison
 Basque workers mobilise against cuts and for sovereignty
 Campaign against torture continues
 6th annual International Week of Solidarity with the Basque Country
 Arrests in the north and south of the country
 In solidarity with the Basque people, Colombian communities reject Garzon’s intervention

Imprisoned for another 10 years after already spending 20 in prison

Former Basque political prisoner Patxi Gomez was taken by the Spanish police in Bilbao today to serve his newly-extended sentence.

He was released in 2002 after completing three-quarters (13 years) of his sentence (standard remission in the Spanish state). But in 2003 the Spanish National Court returned him to jail for another three years after deciding he hadn't completed enough of his sentence but only one month before his release in 2006, the Spanish courts extended his sentence for 10 more years. His defense appealed the decision in 2009 and he was freed while awaiting the courts' decision.

Then following a Spanish Supreme Court's decision he was taken to spend 10 more years added to the already completed almost 20 years. Patxi Gomez is one of the more than 50 Basque political prisoners who have seen their sentences extended by the Spanish courts over the past few years. Those decisions have been deemed a cruel revenge and illegal by many law makers and solicitors.

In January 2010 the City Council of Ortuella, Gomez’s hometown, approved a motion in his support and condemning the extension of his sentence, supported by the votes of the PSE, PNV and EA.

The PSE City Councillor, Daniel Arranz, who had been the Civil Governor of Biscay from 1994 to 1996, argued at the time that he hoped that the decision adopted by the City Council would serve as “an example in the search for peace.”

Basque workers mobilise against cuts and for sovereignty

70% of public workers took part last Thursday in the four-hour strike called by the Basque pro-independence trade unions (their membership far exceeds that of the Spanish unions CCOO and UGT in the country). The strike was against the cuts imposed by the Government of the Basque Autonomous Region (which is run by the Basque branch of the Spanish social-democratic Socialist Party, as a result of the exclusion of the Basque Pro-Independence Left from the elections by banning them).

Twenty-two thousand workers marched in the three main cities during the afternoon. The Basque pro-independence left coalition Bildu (which won the council elections last May) supported the strike and has organised demonstrations tomorrow in the four southern provincial capitals in favour of "Political and economic sovereignty." Bildu said those who created the crisis are applying "financial terrorism."

Then on Friday the Basque pro-independence trade unions, which represent the majority of southern Basque workers, with the total support of the Basque pro-independence parties announced a general strike in the southern Basque Country (under Spanish administration) for March 29th against the cuts, labour law reforms and for sovereignty. This will be the third general strike of this kind in the Basque Country in less than two years.

On Saturday thousands of people took to the streets of the four southern capitals in demonstrations on the same issues, called by four Basque pro-independence left parties.

Campaign against torture continues

On the 13th February, 31 years ago, Basque pro-independence militant Joxe Arregi was tortured to death by the Spanish police. Since 13th February has become Anti-Torture Day in the Basque Country.

These pictures of Joxe Arregi's corpse were taken by close friends who, defying the authorities' threats, removed the body from the tomb in order to be able to prove what everybody suspected.

Some groups dealing with the past are now working on a census of Basques tortured over the last fifty years. They estimate that approximately 10,000 Basque citizens have been tortured by the Spanish police during that time.
6th annual International Week of Solidarity with the Basque Country

The week of 18th-26th February will see many events organised in countries around the world during the 6th annual International Week of Solidarity with the Basque Country. ‎ Below is the link for a video produced by the international network Euskal Herriaren Lagunak/Friends of the Basque Country and the Basque Pro-Independence Left's internationalist organization Askapena, calling supporters to take part in events in Argentina, Uruguay, Germany, Brittany, London, Ireland, Italy, Paris ... and many other places.

Arrests in the north and south of the country

Basque sisters Nahia and Odre Lacroix were arrested this morning by French police in their home in the northern Basque Country. The police fired tear gas cannisters at supporters who gathered outside the house to protest. The sisters have been accused of taking part in damaging a building as part of the ongoing campaign against property speculation launched by Basque pro-independence groups decades ago.

Also Iñaki Igerategi and Inaxio Otaño were arrested by Spanish police during the early hours of yesterday in Andoain, a small town near Donostia/San Sebastian, accused of being ETA members. Spanish media sources said the police had information about them since 2008. Basque pro-independence parties and trade unions spoke against the arrests and expressed their concern for their well-being while incommunicado at the hands of the Spanish police. Three hundred and fifty people took part in the protests in Andoain during the evening.

Colombian communities reject Garzon’s intervention in part in solidarity with the Basque people

A statement issued by a long list of community organisations and organisations of relatives of ‘disappeared’ people in Colombia has declined to support Balthazar Garzón in investigating crimes by the state.

Garzón was one of the most active judges of the Spanish National Court in arresting Basque political activists who were then tortured while held incommunicado by the Spanish police. Statements extracted by torture were routinely used to condemn the accused and to charge others. Garzón and other judges of the court also routinely declined to investigate accusations by the detained of being tortured.

However, Garzón also wished to authorise the opening of mass and individual graves of Franco’s victims in the Spanish state. Other judges of the Spanish National Court declared that he was violating the law giving total amnesty for all crimes committed during Franco’s regime and have charged him as a result. Some people in the Spanish state have since been campaigning in support of Garzón.

Garzón has also been appointed to the Mission to Support the Peace Process in Columbia put together by the US-led Organization of American States.

In the statement the Columbian community organisations expressed support for Basque people persecuted by the Spanish National Court in general and by Garzón in particular, for those tortured and jailed and for those in exile (many of the latter in Latin America).

6 February 2012

Basque Info 24th January – 5th February

 Boost to repatriation campaign whilst situation worsens in the prisons
 International Verification Commission visits the Basque Country
 “Spanish Government afraid of new scenario”
 Death of Basque giant of linguistics, literature, politics ...

Boost to repatriation campaign whilst situation worsens in the prisons

Hundreds of people participated on Sunday 5th in the launch event of Herrira (Return home), the new broad popular movement which will work for the return home of all Basque political prisoners and exiles. The movement was born out of the massive campaign “Egin dezagun bidea” (Let’s build the road) which led to the historic demonstration of 7th January. Short video: http://www.gara.net/bideoak/120205_herrira/

Despite the huge support -- 75% of Basques are in favour of prisoners’ repatriation, according to a poll recently published by the Government of the Basque Autonomous Region -- the association of relatives and friends of prisoners, Etxerat, has raised concern about the currently grave situation inside the various prisons of the Spanish and French states.

At their press conference they warned that despite the new political times there has been no change on the part of the Spanish or French governments. Punishments, isolation and refusal of visits by doctors they trust are still being used as blackmail against Basque political prisoners.

They drew attention to the gravity of Txus Martin’s situation, a gravely-ill prisoner whose health has worsened during recent months. In spite of numerous demonstrations demanding his freedom, he remains in prison.

Two weeks ago Basque political prisoner Iñaki Erro was hospitalized due to severe Ischemic cardiopathy. Iñaki has spent more than 25 years in prison and despite having served ¾ of his sentence he still hasn’t been released. They had to insert a catheter and three stent implants. Also Basque political prisoner Jose Maria Perez suffered a heart attack last week. He’s already spent 25 years in jail despite having fully completed his sentence in 2008. Around 50 prisoners have seen their sentences extended in recent years.

: Basque political refugee Ernesto Prat was arrested last week by French police in the northern Basque Country following an extradition warrant issued by the Spanish authorities.

Mobilization in solidarity with the prisoners: New mobilizations demanded an end to the penitentiary policy suffered by Basque political prisoners. As well as the weekly Friday events, thousands of Basques went into the streets of towns and neighborhoods across the country to demand that the Spanish and French governments end this cruel policy.

Support for Otegi, Diez and comrades:
Last Saturday 200 people gathered outside the Logroño prison walls where pro-Independence Left leader Arnaldo Otegi has been imprisoned for over 800 days. Among those gathered were nationalist politicians, representatives of institutions, journalists, people from the Basque cultural scene and people in solidarity from other parts of the Spanish state.

These people wanted to denounce the “kidnapping” of the five convicted in the Bateragune case and demanded their freedom.

The Presidential Council of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) also demanded the freeing of one of the five, Rafa Diez, former General Secretary of the Basque Left union LAB, along with his four comrades.

Shifting positions: The Basque Autonomous Region’s pro-Spanish President met last week with the Spanish Prime Minister and asked for changes in the penitentiary policy as well as indicating he was favorable to the legalization of Sortu (pro-independence left party banned by the Spanish authorities). Also the French parliament passed a motion to allow Basque prisoners to complete their sentences in Basque prisons.

International Verification Commission visits the Basque Country

Members of the International Verification Commission visited the Basque Country last week. The IVC was created in September last year for the purposes of first evaluating the ceasefire and later the cessation of activity by ETA. It is composed of people with experience of conflict resolution.

During their visit, members of the IVC met with different political and social agencies and individuals from Basque society.

Through these meetings the IVC was able to verify that the final cessation of armed activity by ETA is real -- no armed actions or threats have been carried out by them since their statement of October last year.

After the meetings the IVC released a report in which they gave their conclusions about the current situation. In it, they let it be known that they have had direct contact with the ETA organization and that they are committed to the ceasefire and to the definite cessation of armed activity. They consider that these facts form part of an irreversible process.

The Commission also declared their determination to keep working impartially with the objective of contributing to this historic opportunity for a lasting peace in the Basque Country.

“Spanish Government afraid of new scenario”

Spokespeople for the Abertzale Left evaluated the current political situation and the latest happenings concerning the political conflict.

The Abertzale Left views with worry the current PP government’s policy which continues to choose oppression and violation of rights, as in the case of Basque political prisoners against whom they continue to apply a specially-severe penitentiary policy.

Also the Abertzale Left denounced the Spanish Government’s continued maintenance of the ban on political organisations, as well as trials of people accused of preparing pro-Independence Left political platforms for presentation to Basque society in elections.

According to the Abertzale Left the PP is very afraid of a scenario of solutions, dialogue and the free confrontation of ideas and projects.

In spite of that the Abertzale Left believes that “the process of solutions advances as is demonstrated in the report of conclusions presented by the International Verification Commission. ETA’s will is firm, as well as the involvement of the international community. Basque society is backing a negotiated solution to bring a definite peace to Euskal Herria.”

Finally the Abertzale Left called on the PP and the Spanish Government to set their sights high and to take advantage of the historic opportunity for a final democratic resolution to the political conflict.

Death of Basque giant of linguistics, literature, politics ...

On Sunday 29th hundreds of Basque pro-Independence Left activists filled the main theatre of Donostia/San Sebastian to pay tribute to one of the most outstanding Basque Country figures of the 20th century, Jose Luis Alvarez-Enparantza (aka "Txillardegi"), who died the previous week at the age of 82.

His contribution to the liberation of his people spread to all areas from founding ETA to socio-linguistics and from literature to politics.

His good friend the Welsh writer Ned Thomas wrote this obituary: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/txillardegi-writer-and-politician-who-fought-for-basque-nationalism-6296409.html

2 February 2012

'Night of Solidarity with the Basque Country'

The Belfast Basque Solidarity Committee would like to invite you to our 'Night of Solidarity with the Basque Country' on Saturday 25th February 2012 in the Felons Club, Belfast.

A night of discussion and debate, music and a buffet dinner - organised by the Belfast Basque Solidarity Committee and Supported by Coiste na n-Iarchimí as part of the International Week of Solidarity with the Basque Country.

The night will feature a panel discussion on the current political process in Euskal Herria (Basque Country) with Joe Austin (chair) Pat Sheehan (Sinn Féin MLA and former Hunger striker) and a special guest from Euskal Herria, with a short DVD, buffet dinner and then music from traditional Basque musician Mikel Markez, followed by a selection of the best of Irish musicians.


Proceeds will go towards supporting Basque political prisoner Fermin Vila, currently held in Maghaberry Prison on extradition warrants from Spanish Government. For further info or to purchase tickets please contact Kevin Morrison - 07828130493, or by email slinnian@hotmail.com



24 January 2012

Basque Info 10th-23rd February 2012

In this issue:
• Political prisoners’ situation continues to set the agenda in the Basque Country
• Repression and resistance summary

Political prisoners’ situation continues to set the agenda in the Basque Country
The huge demonstration that filled the streets of Bilbao on Saturday 7th January gave rise to multiple reactions and declarations throughout the week. The sponsors emphasized the historical dimension of the demonstration. Different political parties and representatives of the Spanish Government itself were forced to comment due to the wide media coverage of the demonstration.

The demonstration’s promoters, the Egin Degazun Bidea platform, called it a clear expression of popular will and also expressed their thanks to all who made this popular mobilization possible. They stated that the demonstration was an enormous step and underlined the need for new steps to be taken: “It is time to move on from words to deeds.”

They also called on the Spanish and French governments to be courageous and to “immediately end this cruel penitentiary policy.” “Basque society has spoken clearly and it’s time for both states to take steps that connect with the majority of Basque society.” They pointed out that laws aren’t any obstacle and mustn’t be an excuse if there is the political will to modify them.

Finally they addressed Basque Country society upon which they called to organize themselves and continue mobilizing in defense of the rights of prisoners and political exiles.

Two days later in a new appearance, Egin Degazan Bidea announced two principal initiatives they intend in order to continue to advance.

A reflection process in the herri bilgunes (local groups for the initiative) to articulate popular participation. Saturday’s mobilization showed that thousands of people are willing to work for prisoners’ rights and the most efficient way must be found to energize this movement.

The intensification of contacts with other agencies in the country on two fronts: to make the commitments in hand more efficient and to try to reach new agreements with other agencies.

The objective of all this is to gain respect for the rights of prisoners as a first step in changing the penitentiary policy and in that way advancing towards a resolution of the conflict that brings with it the return of the prisoners and exiles.

However in Madrid the PP Government, ignoring the wishes of the majority of Basque citizens, tried to play down the mobilization and to shrug off the pressure for a change the penitentiary policy.

On state television, the Interior Minister said that the Government wasn’t going to be pressured and they were going to continue to apply the current policy. What’s more, they tried to avoid responsibility and said that the demand should be for ETA to dissolve itself completely. They also insisted that the Government was not going to apply penitentiary policy collectively but according to individual cases.

From the Spanish opposition PSOE, Eduardo Madina, Secretary General of the Socialist Group in Parliament, called on the PP to be brave, stating that within the law there is room for movement and certain political steps can be taken to consolidate a scenario of peace and complete freedom.

In a communiqué sent to the Gara newspaper, the Association of Basque Political Prisoners (EPPK) wished to congratulate the organizers and all of the people who took part in the demonstration. They expressed pride in the people of the Basque Country. “The social and political support received by each and every one of us and for the petitions and initiatives of the EPPK have been amazing,” they said.

In the communiqué the Association stated that the Government was wrong to suggest individual solutions for its members. “There will be no individual solutions, ignoring the general and collective point of view, without confronting the political problem,” they said.

The prisoners also expressed their willingness to take new steps in contribution to the democratic process underway in the Basque Country. They said that for the collective the concept of “amnesty” means an integral democratic solution -- a democratic process that brings all prisoners and refugees home.

Meanwhile, Basque political prisoner Inaki Erro (25 years in jail) was taken to hospital after suffering a stroke. He should have been released years ago after completing three-quarters of his sentence.

Repression news

• A couple of weeks after he denounced his 8-year prison sentence for his political work, Basque pro-independence young activist Ekaitz Samaniego suddenly turned up at the end of a large demonstration organised to support him in his home town of Gasteiz/Vitoria on Saturday 14th. He was then arrested by the Basque-Spanish police and sent to jail. Video: http://www.gara.net/bideoak/120114_ekaitz/

• Six other youth were given up to six years’ jail last Monday accused of being member of the political pro-independence youth organization Segi, banned by the Spanish authorities seven years ago. Protests have been organised in their local area.

• Nineteen people from the town of Laudio are facing up to six years in jail each for disrupting a local council’s meeting to protest against the banning of Basque pro-independence election candidates.

• The Abertzale (pro-Independence) Left organised a commemoration to remember the four local people murdered 32 years ago by Spanish death squads in Alonsotegi’s bar near Bilbao.

• Christian Casteigts was 22 in 1985 when a Spanish death squad’s bomb exploded under his car in Baiona (under French rule). Badly injured and left paraplegic, he never recovered from his injuries and he passed away last week at the age of forty-nine.

• Three alleged ETA members were arrested near Paris last week. This is the first police operation against ETA since the new conservative PP government took office in the Spanish state.

• Hundreds of people marched through the small town of Noain last Sunday to demand the release of Miguel Angel Llamas “Pitu” a well-known local journalist, on the first anniversary of his imprisonment. The charges are based on his professional work. He ran a very popular news website focused on political repression and prisoners’ solidarity. Dozens of journalists have signed a petition to demand his release.

• Hundreds of people held a press conference in Altsasu last week to denounce the Spanish judiciary’s latest attack on freedom of speech. The local pro-independence Mayor and two other activists were indicted for a street performance entitled “The king’s speech” organised to denounce the police harassment the town suffers on a daily basis. The indictment came after a huge criminalization campaign in the Spanish media.

• Yesterday an English court accepted the extradition warrant issued by the Spanish authorities for Basque political refugee Eneko Gogeaskoetxea. His defence team will now appeal. Eneko has been held in the London jail of Belmarsh in draconian conditions for seven months.

• Basque pro-independence activist Unai Hernandez was jailed last week to complete a seven-year jail sentence given for his exclusively political activities.

11 January 2012

Basque Info 27th December – 9th January

In this issue:
Colossal demonstration calls for repatriation of prisoners and exiles
• Solidarity with young activist

Colossal demonstration calls for repatriation of prisoners and exiles

Demo’s video: http://www.gara.net/bideoak/120107_kolosala2/

Last Saturday Bilbao witnessed one of the largest demonstrations ever held in the Basque Country. According to usually reliable estimates over 110,000 people attended the march which had been organised and supported by a myriad of political parties, trade unions and social movements to demand the repatriation of all Basque political prisoners and exiles. It also asked for the immediate release of seriously ill prisoners (eight) and those who have already served two-thirds and three-fourths of their sentences (175 prisoners) as well as those who have already served 100% (58 prisoners). According to Etxerat, the association of relatives of Basque political prisoners and exiles, there are currently 665 prisoners scattered in 71 jails in seven different countries (but the vast majority in the Spanish and French states). Only eight are held in prisons in the Basque Country.

The crowd was so big that it proved very hard for the head of it to move forward. A banner carried by well known musicians, artists, ex-prisoners, sports people and former IRA hunger striker and Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan read in Basque and English: “Repatriate All Basque Prisoners with all their rights.” Leading the march hundreds of prisoners’ relatives walked holding flags with the repatriation campaign logo and slogan (the Spanish National Court had banned them from carrying photographs of prisoners or from calling them political prisoners). Behind all of them there were representatives of the majority of Basque trade unions and nationalist parties along with thousands upon thousands of anonymous citizens.

Despite the presence of dozens of police vans and anti-riot police, some of them even within the body of the actual march, and the threats of the local government and the prohibitions of the Spanish National Court, the march was peaceful.

At the final speech the organisers said: “There are no excuses anymore. There is no place for more delay. From tomorrow, Basque society doesn’t expect anything but the removal of all the cruel and exceptional measures applied to Basque prisoners. By doing so a grey period would come to an end and it would open the door to a new time which will bring us to a new situation of freedom and rights for all, to a situation of definite peace without prisoners and exiles.”

Pressure is growing on the newly-elected conservative Spanish government to make a move. Even the unionist Spanish Socialist Party in office in the two Basque regional governments has said the prisoners should be transfered to jails in the Basque Country. A Spanish government survey showed last week that the majority of Basque people support the repatriation of Basque political prisoners, negotiations between ETA and the government, the right to self-determination and the legalization of the Basque Pro-Independence Left.

The Spanish Government reaction has been to say that they won’t proceed to collective releases but will apply the measures contained in the law.

Solidarity with young activist

22 year-old pro-independence activist Ekaitz Samaniego has been at the centre of a wave of solidarity during the last week of the year. Ekaitz was sentenced to eight years in jail recently, acused of being a member of the Basque pro-independence revolutionary youth organisation Segi which was banned by the Spanish authorities in 2005.

Basque pro-independence political youth activists and their organizations have been butally harassed and attacked by Spanish and French police and judiciary over the past 10 years. Three organizations have been banned and over 300 members arrested, tortured and sentenced to up to eight years in jail because of their political and public work.

Ekaitz is the last of a long black list but many more remain in jail or under the threat of arrest. This time, a broad campaign of solidarity has been backing him in his local town of Gasteiz/Vitoria. Fifty people along with Ekaitz himself spent a week on protest in a local church and received the support of hundreds of people. At the end of the week Ekaitz decided “to go underground to highlight his situation and that of many other activists.” He’ll be staying in supporters’ homes until he decides what’s the best time to return to the public eye.