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<b>Basque Info 6th-19th March<br /><br

Irish Basque Comittees - AZ, 03/21/2012 - 11:02
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

Irish Basque Comittees - AZ, 03/21/2012 - 11:02

• 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:

 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): and!
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.

Basque Info 6th February – 21st February

Irish Basque Comittees - AZ, 02/22/2012 - 16:33

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).

Basque Info 24th January – 5th February

Irish Basque Comittees - AL, 02/06/2012 - 13:35

 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:

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:

'Night of Solidarity with the Basque Country'

Irish Basque Comittees - OG, 02/02/2012 - 12:05
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



Basque Info 10th-23rd February 2012

Irish Basque Comittees - AT, 01/24/2012 - 12:18
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:

• 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.

Basque Info 27th December – 9th January

Irish Basque Comittees - AZ, 01/11/2012 - 16:54
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:

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.

Basque Info 14th-26th December

Irish Basque Comittees - AT, 12/27/2011 - 12:20
In this issue:
• Important declaration from the Gernika Agreement signatories regarding victims of all violence

• No positive responses from Spain and France to ETA’s move says International Contact Group

• In Brief: Navarre declares against prisoners dispersal policy; Otegi speaks from prison; Spanish Parliament denies own Parliamentary Group to Amaiur; Extraditions.

Important declaration from Gernika Agreement signatories regarding victims of all violence

The signatories of the Gernika Agreement for conflict resolution, the Abertzale Left among them, launched a new document to state their position in relation to the issue of conflict victims.

They consider the recognition of all victims of all violence to be an important step in advancing towards overcoming the conflict. They reaffirm “the necessity of recognition, reconciliation and reparation of all victims that the political conflict has given rise to and the reality of multilateral violences”.

The suffering caused by the conflict has been great and in the text they mention it and make clear that “the pain and suffering of each part of the conflict can’t be, and shouldn’t be, measured.”

They show their sorrow to those who have suffered some type of violence, be it that from ETA or from the Spanish or French states. They recognize the pain and suffering that violence has caused among people.

To advance to building a fair and lasting peace, it is necessary to recognize all of the pain suffered, they believe and that it is important for “the truth to be known, each and every truth that forms a part of it.”

The subject of victims being so delicate, they understand that it has to be treated with care and respect without it being used as a weapon in the political debate. They champion adopting measures, individually as well as collectively, towards repairing the damage caused and restoring the violated rights of the victims.

They affirm that their objective is “a society in which everyone can exercise their rights and see them respected” for which there must be an advance on the path to reconciliation and mutual respect.

Finally they declare that the best guarantee that situations of violence and violations of human rights never occur is the definitive overcoming of the political conflict. For that it would be important to open a process of dialogue among the whole of Basque political forces to deal with the final closure of the causes of the conflict.

No positive responses from Spain and France to ETA’s move says International Contact Group

The International Contact Group (IGC) announced a new initiative with the objective of putting in place the mechanisms for moving forward the recommendations covered in the Declaration of Aiete.

The members of the IGC met a few days ago in London. The objective of the meeting was to continue the work for whic they cam into being: that of promoting, facilitating and speeding up the resolution of the conflict in the Basque Country.

In the meeting they evaluated events relating to the resolution process that have occurred since the Aiete Conference. In the press release sent out after the meeting they stated that “neither the Spanish Government nor the French Government have responded positively to the declaration by ETA.”

In spite of that the IGC has decided to continue with their work and “collaborate with international leaders to establish steps towards the formation of a committee to follow the recommendations that are contained in the declaration.”

The IGC affirms that it will continue observing the evolution of the situation and they are disposed to support and promote ways to foment confidence in public opinion, including dialogue with civil society and with all political parties.

In brief:

Navarre’s parliament declares against dispersal policy:
For the first time ever the parliament of Navarre (one of the two autonomous communities comprising the southern Basque Country) passed a motion against the dispersal policy implemented on Basque political prisoners. As a consequence of such policy the 686 Basque political prisoners are scattered in 85 jails across France and Spain. The motion was passed with the support of the Socialist Party (soc. dem.) which had been in government in Madrid until losing the Spanish general elections two months ago.

Arnaldo Otegi speaks from prison: One of the main Spanish radio stations interviewed, through a written questionnaire, imprisoned Basque pro-independence leader Arnaldo Otegi. In the interview Otegi told Spanish public opinion that it should now face up the solution of the consequences of the conflict.

Spanish parliament denies a group of its own to Amaiur: The right-wing PP used their absolute majority to leave Basque pro-independence Amaiur without their own group in Parliament. As a consequence Amaiur will be permitted less time for speeches and funds and won’t be able to take part in meetings on state security matters. Amaiur, for their part, denounced the political motivation of this decision and announced an appeal.

Basque political refugee Ventura Tomé was extradited from Belgium last week. Meanwhile hearings were held on the cases of Basque refugees Fermin Vila (Belfast), Eneko Gogeskoetxea (London) and Xabier Agirre (Brussels).

Basque Info 29th Nov-13th Dec

Irish Basque Comittees - AZ, 12/14/2011 - 14:44
In this edition:
• Campaign for repatriation of Basque political prisoners gains momentum
• Strong demand for a democratic resolution

Campaign for repatriation of Basque political prisoners gains momentum

Basque political prisoners continue to suffer the consequences of the special prison policy of the French and Spanish states. They continue to be imprisoned hundreds of kilometres away from their families and friends despite the wishes of the majority of Basque society.

That is the reason for the unceasing public demonstrations demanding the repatriation of political prisoners and respect for their rights. Social agencies, political parties and trade unions have shown their support for the national march in favor of the prisoners to take place on January 7th, organised by the ad-hoc umbrella group Egin Dezagun Bidea (Let’s Make the Way).

Besides showing their agreement with this demonstration, these agencies wished to make strong commitments in defence of the rights of Basque political prisoners. According to them the prisoners’ suffering requires it and turning the direction of penitentiary policy towards the resolution of the conflict is an urgent goal. Because of that they have called for diverse mobilizations to raise public awareness from here until January 7th. One of the most important will be the rotating fast from December 12th to December 18th in which trade unionists, youth association members, teachers, students, feminists, representatives of political parties and institutions will take part in 24-hour shifts.

New steps are being taken by the Prisoners’ Association in the context of the current political situation in the Basque Country brought about by the strategy put in place over the past two years by the Basque Pro-Independence Left.

Through a statement published in the newspaper Gara last Saturday, the Basque Political Prisoners’ Association shared with Basque society their reflections and gave an account of the initiatives they will take in the coming weeks.

The statement was published on the 10th December, International Human Rights Day. That is why some of the human rights violations that the Basque Country suffers were named, specifically cultural, linguistic and political rights.

The statement announced an important initiative in the coming weeks to end the dispersal policy (700 prisoners scattered among 85 jails) that they and especially their families suffer:

“With this new initiative we wish to demand an end to the dispersal policy and to ask for our re-allocation. The is not a new demand but we wish to renew it because it is our right, it is the right of our family members and friends, because it is the right of our people. The penitentiary policy, the dispersal policy does not only target political prisoners, it is an added punishment for our families and friends. This policy initiated a quarter of a century ago today means prolonging the political blackmail of this people and hindering the political process with traps and attacks.

“An attack that Basque forces favoring a political resolution cannot permit. For the states nothing more than giving a positive response is needed, without delay. They have the whole people in front of them, even those who until today have promoted, defended and accepted the cruelty and violence of the penitentiary policy. Ending that is an urgent democratic necessity. It’s time to make valiant, profound and democratic decisions. The road map of resolution demands it.”

“Every one of us is going to make a petition to be transferred to the Basque Country in the coming days. A petition that we announce and support through this statement.

“If we are regrouped in the Basque Country we could give our active and positive support to the political process.”

The Association demands that ill prisoners be set free, also those who a long time ago should have been paroled and those who have had their sentences lengthened in an irregular way.

They call on the governments of Spain and France to respond to this demand. They also feel that the international community should involve themselves with this subject and encourage them to take decisive steps.

Four hundred former Basque Political prisoners from different generations participated in a massive press conference on Sunday in which they showed their total support for “the reflections and petitions made public” the previous day by the Basque Political Prisoners’ Association. They said that the time of repression and suffering must be overcome and an important step on this path is bringing home all of the prisoners and those on the run.

Strong demand for democratic resolution

4,000 people marched in Baiona (northern Basque Country) last Saturday to demand from the Spanish and French states a conflict resolution process. The march was supported by all Basque nationalist parties and also the Basque branches of the French Socialist Party, Green Party and New Anticapitalist Party as well as trade unions. ‘Wanted’ Basque political activists Aurore Martin and Josu Esparza attended the rally also.

Forty-eight hours later Josu Esparza was arrested, extradited to Spain and imprisoned. Another two Basque pro-independence activists have been arrested also today by French police in the northern Basque Country. The arrests have been deemed as a provocation by the organisers of last Saturday’s march.

Basque Info 1/12/10

Irish Basque Comittees - AL, 12/06/2010 - 12:01
Basque Info 1/12/10

• New Basque Pro-Independence Left party’s basis presented
• France accepts the European arrest warrant against Aurore Martin, member of Batasuna.

New Basque Pro-Independence Left party’s basis presented

The Basque Pro-Independence Left will soon have an entirely new political formation, designed to accumulate forces to achieve independence and socialism and supported by activity carried out through exclusively political and democratic means. Its first step presented a powerful picture featuring nearly 300 activists in different fields of Basque endeavour.

The Pro-Independence Left took another essential step last Saturday to overcome the current deadlock. They held a press conference to display the political and organizational bases of their new project. They also announced that “soon" they will present the new organization’s. They added an important point: "This application will be prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Political Parties Law." They did so after making it clear that they still consider the law "undemocratic", and that it is part of the current reality "of imposition and denial" by the Spanish state which they seek to change with their political initiative.

The two pillars of the project are: an open democratic internal structure and way of working and activity carried out exclusively through peaceful and democratic methods. They stressed that the exclusive commitment to politics "should be firm and unequivocal, not subject to situational factors and tactical variables, and therefore must reject the use of violence or threat of its use for political objectives." On the horizon remain the historical objectives of the Pro-Independence Left: independence and socialism.

This impressive event in Iruñea/Pamplona fixed another objective to the new project of the Pro-Independence Left: that at this historical point it should work for a peaceful scenario, engaging in invigorating a process of dialogue and negotiation to resolve the conflict democratically. Those gathered to support this new project included youth, students, trade unionists, pro-amnesty activists...

Statement of the press conference in English:

France accepts the European arrest warrant against Aurore Martin, member of Batasuna.

In a move against Batasuna, the Pau Court last week gave the green light to a European arrest warrant against Batasuna representative Aurore Martin, on account of her participation in political events in the southern Basque towns of Iruñea/Pamplona and Agurain. The decision, which is not final, amazed her defense counseol, created concerns in the Pro-Independence Left and was rejected by the entire political spectrum of the northern Basque Country where Batasuna remains a legal political party though banned in the Spanish occupied southern Basque Country.

The judicial process initiated by the Spanish government and presented to the French state against Aurore Martin for being a member of Batasuna has taken another step forward. The Pau Court ruled in favour of implementing the arrest warrant. The decision is not final but, if ratified by the Court of Appeal, it would represent a major step by Paris and would constitute a serious precedent. Aurore Martin, 31, as all northern Basques do has "French nationality" and is being prosecuted solely for political activities, such as participation in two acts of the Pro-Independence Left in Iruñea/Pamplona and Agurain. In the process references are made to other appearances in Baiona or Uztaritze (northern Basque Country).

This ruling of the Pau Court has caused a visible political upheaval in the northern Basque Country because everyone understands the possible consequences in the near future. In addition there were many demands, from very different political backgrounds, that the judges reject the Spanish claim outright, which has not happened. Among the reactions must be highlighted that of the the local branch of the mainstream French Socialist Party (Labour). In a press release, they considered the verdict "unacceptable to us as democrats." It adds that it "deplores the proceedings of this court, whose very foundation has been perverted and brings into question the right of defence and individual freedom. It doesn’t reflect the will to fight terrorism as envisaged in the European arrest warrant process, but seeks instead to criminalize democratic political action. "

Basque Info 10/11/10

Irish Basque Comittees - AZ, 11/10/2010 - 17:34
• 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.

Basque Info podcast

Irish Basque Comittees - AZ, 11/10/2010 - 17:33
Including the main news of the week and an interview with Basque solicitor Iratxe Urizar

Basque Info 6/10/10

Irish Basque Comittees - OT, 10/08/2010 - 12:54

• Huge Demonstration for human, civil and political rights
• European HR Court condemns Spain for not investigating tortures
• New police operation
• New press statement of Brian Currin
• Basque political prisoner tries to commit suicide

Huge Demonstration for human, civil and political rights

Last Saturday 46,000 people took part in a demonstration in favour of human, political and civil rights in Bilbao. They also protested against the banning by the Spanish authorities of two previous marches, which had the same slogan.

The majority of Basque political parties and trade unions supported the demonstration, which was branded by some as the beginning of a new era in the Basque Country.

Some of the political leaders who attended the march stressed the importance of such popular mobilisations in order to put pressure on the Spanish government to make it desist from its negative attitude towards a democratic process.

Banners demanding the release of the recently arrested pro-independence activists could also be seen along the march. People shouted chants in favour of the Basque political prisoners and independence.

European Court of Human Rights condemns Spain for not investigating torture

The ECHR condemnation of Spain refers to the case of Basque citizen Mikel San Argimiro who was arrested, held incommunicado and tortured for five days by the Guardia Civil (militarised police corps) in 2002. The sentence orders Spain to pay 23,000 euros for failing to investigate the complaints of torture. The sentence is likely to establish a precedent in the matter because Spain almost systematically does not investigate claims of torture while in detention.

The forensic report in San Argimiro's torture case established that he had many serious injuries, which were dismissed.

The European tribunal cannot judge whether torture has taken place or not, because there is no investigation. However, it can judge that failing to investigate claims of torture is a serious fault and a breach of article 3 of the European Covenant on Human Rights which forbids torture.

There is a long list of similar cases involving Basques as victims. Next in line are the well-known cases of Unai Romano, whose photos with his face totally deformed by the beatings caused a tremendous impact, and Martxelo Otamendi, director of Basque language newspaper Egunkaria, which is one of the most aggravating cases of persecution against freedom of speech and linguistic diversity.

New police operation

Just a few hours after seven pro-independence activists belonging to the internationalist organisation Askapena were arrested three people were arrested and accused of forming an ETA unit in Villabona, near Donostia/San Sebastian. Explosives and weapons were said to be found by the police.

Five out of the seven Askapena members were sent to jail after several days in the hands of the police and two of the three alleged members were also imprisoned. Two of them denounced being brutally tortured while under the incommunicado regime.

During the week many protests were organised at the home towns of those arrested and there were also protests and solidarity events organised across the world to support Askapena and the arrested activists.

The leadership of the Basque pro-independence trade union LAB said at a press conference last week that they are being harassed and are under constant surveillance by the Spanish police. They demanded their right to do their job freely and demanded the Spanish authorities to change their repressive attitude and promote a democratic peace process.

Last Friday a Belfast judge dismissed the European Arrest Warrant against Basque activist Fermin Vila. He was arrested in Belfast last July following a Spanish request based on “terrorism charges”. He has been held in Maghaberry jail since then. The Spanish authorities have now produced two new warrants.

Around 100 people attended a solidarity and fundraising night to support Fermin Vila and Askapena in west Belfast on Friday. On Saturday 30 people took part in a five-a-side football tournament with the same aims.

New press statement from Brian Currin

International mediator Brian Currin announced last week: “Each one of the endorsers of the Brussels Declaration has been consulted on ETA’s recent statements and direct response to the Brussels Declaration. Their plea to ETA remains the same as it was when the Brussels Declaration was issued in March this year, namely that they declare a unilateral, verifiable and permanent ceasefire.”

Brian Currin also stated “that as a result of logistical difficulties in working with a large group of individuals in different parts of the world and the need to engage on the issues quickly and efficiently it has been decided, in consultation with various interested parties to establish an International Contact Group of 5 people. Details of this group, it members, mandate and role will be announced during the course of October.”

Basque political prisoner tries to commit suicide

Basque political prisoner Txus Martin cut his veins on the 25th of September in an attempt at suicide, the prisoners’ support group anounced last week. The group also denounced the harsh conditions he has been subjected to, especially over the past five years in French jails, which have caused him psychological illnesses.

As happens every week, more than 50 vigils were held in towns across the Basque Country last Friday to support the more than 700 political prisoners held in 85 jails in France and Spain.


Irish Basque Comittees - OT, 10/08/2010 - 12:52
Dear friends,

since August we only publish our bulletins and news on our Facebook page:

We hope to meet you there!

BASQUE INFO 14 & 21/07/10

Irish Basque Comittees - OT, 07/23/2010 - 12:43

• Pro-Independence solidarity and strength displayed in two nations
• Udalbiltza case begins with great show of support
• Youth mobilise for independence during the summer despite criminalization
• Prisoner loses 20 kilos on hunger strike

Pro-Independence solidarity and strength displayed in two nations

More than 10,000 people rallied in Donostia San Sebastian on the 10th of July to demand self-determination. The demonstration had been called by three Left pro-Independence parties to show solidarity in addition to the Catalan people who were demonstrating in Barcelona at the same time. Over one million people took part in the largest demonstration for self-government in Catalonia to protest against the Spanish authorities’ latest attack on Catalan autonomy.

Representatives of both nations attended the other’s rally in Donostia and Barcelona.

In Donostia the speakers said the demonstration was another step in the building of a broad pro-independence movement in the Basque Country. They said that the Country is on the move towards a new political scenario with resolution and commitment. They also called upon all political and social agencies and trade unions to join forces and establish alliances to work in the same direction.

Udalbiltza case begins with great show of support
On the 15th of July a trial started in the Spanish national court in Madrid against 22 Basque former councillors and mayors for their work in Udalbitza, the first Basque national institution. Udalbiltza was created in 1999 by 2,000 nationalist elected representatives to promote nation-building across the Basque Country. Since then the institution has been involved in many different projects to promote basque culture, true national bodies and help economic developing in deprived regions.

Now the 22 former elected representatives are facing between 15 and 20 years in jail as they are accused of being members of ETA for their political, public and peaceful work within Udalbiltza.

A broad support campaign has been organised and there have been many public expressions of support from different sections such as political parties, trade unions, culture, sport organisations and individuals and even from the international arena.

Around 10,000 people marched in Bilbao last Saturday to support the indicted.
There were representatives of all the Basque nationalist parties and even some Councillors of the Spanish Labour Party (in Government in Madrid and in the Basque autonomous region) took part in the demonstration.

The Egunkaria case is in everybody´s mind. The huge and broad support shown by Basque society brought about the absolving of all the indicted by the Spanish national court. The same lack of evidence and the clear political nature of both cases prove that the Udalbiltza case should also be thrown out. Nevetheless the solicitors have protested the attack on the right to defence as the Tribunal has refused to admit two experts’ testimonies and all the 165 documentary evidence, allowing only 20 witnesses out of the 140 presented by the defence. Among those prevented from taking part in the trial as witnesses are Irish priest Alec Reid, Scottish National Party MP Lloyd Quinan and former Idaho Senator Pete Cenarrusa.
The trial will continue this week and will then break for the summer until September.

Youth mobilise for independence during the summer despite criminalization
Basque youth will be very busy this summer as pro-independence mountain marches have been organised in every province of the Basque Country. The marches have the common slogan of “Wave the red flag!” and will last for at least three days.
Many more pro-Independence local events have been organised by the youth in festivals across the Basque Country.
Organised by the Basque pro-Independence youth organization SEGI, 200 youth marched in the northern Basque town of Biarritz on the 14th of July, the French national day, to denounce the French state and the capitalist system for their responsibility in the assimilation and oppression process in the Basque Country.
Meanwhile seventeen youth activists from Donostia San Sebastian have been tried in the Spanish National Court in Madrid for their alleged work in SEGI. Twenty-six were arrested in 2005 and most of them reported being tortured before being sent to jail. Now they are waiting for their sentences which could be up to 8 years in prison. Over past years another sixteen police operations of this kind have taken place against the pro-Independence youth organization SEGI which is banned in the Southern Basque Country.

Prisoner loses 20 kilos on hunger strike
Basque political prisoner Arkaitz Agirregabiria ended a 33-day hunger-strike against solitary confinement last Monday after reaching an agreement with the Director of the French jail where he is held. He will at last be transferred to another jail with other comrades. He has lost 20 kilos during the protest.
Another two prisoners who were arrested with Arkaitz last May are still on hunger-strike for the same reason in other French jails and some other comrades have begun hunger-strikes in solidarity with them.
Another prisoner is on hunger-strike in a southern Spanish jail to protest against the prison guards’ harassment and another is on hunger-strike in Portugal to protest against the appalling living conditions in which he is held.

Basque Info podcast

Irish Basque Comittees - OG, 07/01/2010 - 22:39
This week's Basque Info podcast is available now including the main news of the week and and an interview with Batasuna representative about the recently signed strategic agreement.

Basque Info 30/06/10

Irish Basque Comittees - OG, 07/01/2010 - 22:38
• Pro-independence workers fight back against Zapatero’s anti-labour measures
• Basque pro-independence activist arrested in Belfast
• Tributes to Basque refugees, murdered militants and prisoners

Pro-independence workers fight back against Zapatero’s anti-labour measures
Yesterday, Tuesday 29th, a general strike was organised in the southern Basque Country (under Spanish administration) by the Basque pro-independence trade unions, who have the majority of elected representatives in workers’ councils. The general strike was also supported by the Basque pro-independence left parties.

Last week the Spanish government passed several new legislative measures attacking workers’ rights. The Basque pro-independence trade unions immediately called a general strike.

Despite the deep economic crisis in the Spanish state and its impact on working people the only general strikes organised have been in the Basque Country. In June last year the Basque pro-independence trade unions organised a successful general strike followed by many demonstrations and campaigns in working places. Last month they also organised a public service general strike and finally yesterday they organised a yet another strike in all sectors. This time the Basque branch of the largest Spanish trade union also supported their call.

From the early hours of the morning groups of organised workers walked the industrial estates and participated in demonstrations and pickets. Later in the morning they joined students, clerical workers, pensioners and others to explain the issues to other citizens and remaining workers and to encourage them to join in the strike.

At midday around 65,000 people took part in demonstrations in the capital cities of the four Basque southern provinces. The slogan chosen for the day was “Stop impositions. Let’s defend our rights!” Representatives of trade unions told the large crowds that the Spanish Government’s new labour reform is the worst in 30 years. The legislation includes cuts in public services and pensions, reducing the workers’ redundancy payouts and other anti-labour measures.

The speakers also said that the general strike is not the end but the begining of a long and hard struggle that must be fought. They also spoke against social partnership as they consider it a mere tool of social control and blackmailing in the hands of the employers.

Thousands of people took also part in the evening demonstrations in the four capitals and in the many other local ones organised throughout the day.

The police charged against pickets in many places, especially in Bilbao and there were several arrests.

Basque pro-independence activist arrested in Belfast

At midnight last Thursday a Basque pro-independence activist was arrested by the police in Belfast in an operation assisted by the Spanish police.

He was then taken for interrogation to Antrim police station. The arrested person is Fermin Vila who stood for the European elections in 1994 as a pro-independence candidate for Herri Batasuna and reportedly has been on the run since 2000. He was also the Basque local councils’ spokesperson for demilitarization and represented the anti-conscription association.

Despite being released on Saturday on charges of “terrorist activities” in the north of Ireland he was immediately rearrested due to an existing European Arrest Warrant issued by the Spanish authorities.

During a preliminary hearing at Belfast Recorder's Court on Monday, his barrister Sean Devine said he would not be consenting to the extradition request. Judge Burgess said he was satisfied the defendant should be remanded in custody until the hearing of this matter.

A timetable for the case is expected to be agreed later this week, with a full hearing expected in September.

In a statement Fermin Vila said he was proud of his involvement in the Basque pro-independence struggle and that he was only sad to be jailed for being a Basque political refugee. He also stated his support for a peace process in the Basque Country and said there were many lessons to be learned from the Irish process.

Meanwhile, an appeal by another Basque pro-independence activist against an extradition order to face a charge of “glorifying terrorism” has been put on hold. Inaki de Juana, who was granted bail to live in Belfast, has not been seen since April. He was due to challenge a ruling that he should be returned to Spain for trial. But with his whereabouts unknown, judges in the Court of Appeal on Monday agreed to stay the case on the basis that it would be an abuse of process to go ahead with it.

Tributes to Basque refugees, murdered militants and prisoners
Today Wednesday 30th is thirty years since Basque political prisoner Jose Mari Sagardui “Gatza” was imprisoned. He is called “the Basque Mandela” as he is the longest-serving prisoner in Europe. His solicitors denounced his situation at a press conference last week and branded the Spanish authorities’ prison policy as cruel, inhumane and vindictive. He should have been released last year but instead, as is the case with many other Basque political prisoners, he has seen his sentence extended by new retroactive laws. Fifty-three Basque prisoners have already been in jail for more than 20 years and thirteen for more than 25 years.

Forty-nine year-old Basque political refugee Mikel Zalakain died last week after a short illness in Corsica. He left to escape repression in 1986. His entire family was then arrested and his father died in jail. Mikel was arrested in 1992 and spent one year in a French jail. After his release the French authorities ordered his confinement to Paris but he eventually broke the confinement and escaped to Corsica, where he spent the rest of his life on the run with his wife and son.

Both Gatza and Zalakain were remembered by the Pro-Independence movement and the weekly vigils in support of the prisoners.

A commemoration took place last weekend in the Basque Pyrenees to remember two Basque Volunteers who were murdered by the Spanish police there 20 years ago. Another volunteer was seriously wounded and was fortunate to survive the shots to his head at close range. The circumstances have never been officially clarified by the Spanish state.

A Basque prisoner’s mother and a friend who died in a road accident on their way to a prison visit 20 years ago were also commemorated over the weekend.

Basque Info 16 & 23/06/10

Irish Basque Comittees - OG, 07/01/2010 - 22:37
• Pro-independence agreement of historical significance signed
• Struggle for civil and political rights receives new boost
• Growing international support for the Basque Country
• Prisoners in struggle receive support

Pro-independence agreement of historical significance signed

The Basque Pro-Independence Left and the social-democratic nationalist party Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity) last Sunday signed a strategic agreement to achieve a Basque independent state.

The agreement has been branded as of historic importance as it is the first one of its kind in the Basque Country and also due to the different traditions and backgrounds both forces represent.

The agreement was signed during a two-hour long political meeting in the Euskalduna Congress Hall in Bilbao including speeches, traditional dance and music and videos. Three hundred members of each party attended, along with representatives from political parties from around the world like Ireland (Sinn Féin), Palestine, Flanders, Catalonia...

Months of common work and debate have led to the signing of this historic agreement. In it both parties commit themselves to develop unified action and strategy to achieve an independent Basque state through a peaceful, civic and democratic confrontation with the Spanish and French states. They set as a priority the resolution of the armed and political conflict through dialogue and negotiation.

The agreement declares the need for new political institutions for the Basque Country and it sets as an objective the achievement of social justice and equality between men and women.

The agreement is open to other progressive pro-independence forces to join in with special reference to the trade union movement. The signatories also talk of the need for joining forces with other pro-self-determination parties. The agreement also states the intention of respecting the differences and autonomy of each party and it highlights the need for new combined electoral platforms.

Pro-Spanish political forces reacted with threats of repression and among nationalist parties some welcomed it and some others demanded the end of ETA’s armed struggle.

Struggle for civil and political rights receives new boost

On the 11th of June dozens of people from different political backgrounds held a press conference to launch the conclusion of months of debate around the campaign for civil and political rights.

In January Adierazi EH!/Express Basque Country! was launched at a massive political event and since then they have been working at the national and local levels to build a grassroots movement in favour of basic democratic rights.

With the launch of the conclusions which include the definition of a bill of human, civil and political rights they want to boost the struggle for democracy and peace in the Basque Country.

This initiative is born out of the state of emergency the Basque Country lives under and the need of strong and organised grassroots response.

During the press conference they showed their support for those indicted in the Udalbiltza case who are facing up to 15 years in jail for their political work as local authority councillors and mayors in favour of the national construction of the Basque country. Political, labour and community organizations have also shown their support publicly over the past few weeks as the trial approaches. At the press conference Adierazi EH!/Express BC! also showed their support to the dozens of pro-independence youth who face many years in jail in soon-to-come trials. 3,000 people demonstrated last Saturday in Donostia/San Sebastian in favour of those same youth.

Three Basque pro-independence youth who escaped from the massive police operation in November appeared in Rome two weeks ago at a press conference to denounce the Spanish repression at the same time as Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero was due to meet his Italian counterpart Berlusconi. They were immediately arrested and imprisoned and are now facing extradition to the Spanish state.

Growing international support for the Basque Country

Representatives of Basque solidarity committees from across Europe gathered in the Basque coastal town of Zarautz ten days ago for their annual meeting. There they were briefed on the political situation, exchanged experiences, agreed new initiatives and showed once again their support to all of those struggling for a free Basque Country.

Year after year new solidarity committees are created and all of them organise an international week of solidarity in February as well as many other local campaigns and events.

Following the example of MEPs in Brussels, Swiss MPs launched last week a working group in the national Parliament to support a peace process in the Basque Country.

Prisoners in struggle receive support

Four Basque political prisoners are currently on hunger strike in different Spanish and French jails to protest against their isolation from other comrades.

Dozens of other political prisoners have once again lost their visits as their relatives refused intimate body searches.

Despite police harassment 130 people from the province of Navarre traveled 1,200 kilometres to the southern Spanish jail of Puerto, near Gibraltar, to show their support for the Basque prisoners who are kept there. Another bus from the Elgoibar town went to Castellon on the Mediterranean coast.

Hundreds of people took part in a march in Baiona, hundreds more attended the Solidarity Day in the Urola valley and dozens of local vigils were organised across the Basque Country showing the Basque prisoners do not stand alone.


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