21 September 2006 Edition

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Appeal to save life of Iñaki de Juana Chaos

Basque political prisoner on hunger strike

On 7 August this year, Basque political prisoner Iñaki de Juana Chaos began a hunger strike to demand his right to be released.

De Juana Chaos should have been freed on 25 October 2004, having served his sentence in full and spent 18 years in jail. However, the Magistrate at the First Penal Court of the Spanish Audiencia Nacional, Gómez Bermúdez, issued a decision, dated 22 October, attempting to contest the remission Iñaki was entitled to and to prevent his release. As his arguments against the Basque prisoner could not be sustained by Spanish law, the judge decreed his remand in custody for the alleged offence of membership of an armed group and terrorist threats.

The accusations against de Juana are based on two opinion articles published by the Basque daily Garas. However, even one of the judges at the Audiencia Nacional - the Spanish Special Criminal Court - could not find anything in the articles which would maintain the charges. Justice Santiago Pedraz said that the fact that the prisoner expressed support for the Basque National Liberation Movement could not be interpreted as a direct endorsement of ETA. He added that "this movement is not defined as a terrorist organisation" and therefore the crime of issuing terrorist threats was not proven.

Pedraz was subjected to a backlash from the media and the justice minister who stated: "We shall build new charges so that they (Basque prisoners) are not released." The State General Prosecutor, Cándido Conde Pumpido, said: "We shall continue to oppose his release insofar as it is legally possible" and appealed Pedraz's decision. The climate created as a result of this rhetoric led the Third Section of the Audiencia Nacional Penal Court to reverse Pedraz's decision, arguing that de Juana "boasted of and extolled" his membership of ETA in the two articles, the content of which, according to this decision, "clearly displays a possible terrorist threat". It requested a 96-year prison sentence.

De Juana has spent over 45 days on hunger strike and, from what he has told his relatives, is clearly ready to see it through. A spokesperson for Etxera - an association for the relatives of Basque political prisoners - has slammed the treatment of de Juana. He was forcibly brought to hospital and subjected to several medical checks.

Audiencia Nacional judge Luis del Olmo has ordered that if his health deteriorates further - de Juana suffers from low blood pressure and renal problems due to his many fastings - he should be taken to hospital and must remain there until he is healthy enough to go back to jail. The judge has also ordered that, if necessary, he should be forcibly fed.

De Juana's family has to travel more than 2,500 kilometres every weekend to get a 40-minute visit. The relatives of thousands of Basque political prisoners are in a similar situation. This dispersal policy, designed by the Spanish PSOE Government at the end of the 1980s, has led to the deaths of 16 relatives in road accidents, while 22 political prisoners have died in prison.

Basque political prisoner Edorta Sainz-Lobato should have been released on 13 January, after 17 years, but on the orders of judge Javier Gómez-Bermúdez has had to stay behind bars. There is a campaign for the release of Filipe Bidart, who was due for release in February 2003, and others on the Basque website www.filipeaska.com.

De Juana's situation is just another example of how the Spanish Government is ready to disregard its own laws when it comes to Basque political prisoners. The Justice Department, the Spanish Attorney General, the Special Criminal Court and the Spanish Minister of Internal Affairs are preventing the release of prisoners over and above all principles of law.

The Spanish establishment has unilaterally decided that some Basque political prisoners have not served enough time in jail, and are denying the right to freedom to those who have served their sentences in full. The Spanish Minister of Justice, Juan Fernando López-Aguilar, says that "they are not to be released before they have shown remorse". At this moment there are 100 Basque political prisoners who should be released according to Spanish law, having served 3/4 of their sentence. The reduction measures won by working in the prison or by good behaviour are not being applied to them. On top of all that, it recently became known that the Spanish Government has backed down from plans to bring political prisoners closer to the Basque Country - something that should be done by law.

It is worth pointing out that all this is happening against the background of the possible development of a conflict resolution process. So it is obvious that the Spanish Prime Minister, Zapatero, is using the prisoners as pawns ahead of negotiations.

To help save Iñaki's life write to:

Spanish Ambassador

to Ireland

D. José de Carvajal Salido,

Spanish Embassy in Ireland,

17A Merlyn Park,

Ballsbridge ,

Dublin 4.

Tel: (01) 269 1640

Fax: (01) 269 1854

Email: [email protected]

Spanish Prime Minister

José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero,

Presidente del Gobierno Español,

Palacio de la Moncloa,

Avda. Puerta de Hierro, s/n.

28071 Madrid, España.

Email: [email protected]

Fax: 0034 913900217

Spanish Special

Court's President

Carlos Divar Blanco,

Presidente Audiencia Nacional,

C/ García Gutiérrez, 1,

28004 Madrid,

España.

Fax: 0034 913973381

Spanish Prisons'

Director

Mercedes Gallizo Llamas,

Directora General de Instituciones Penitenciarias,

C/ Alcalá, 38-40,

28014 Madrid,

España.

Fax: 00 34 913354052

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