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

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