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.

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