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