11 October 2007 Edition
Spanish judge targets Batasuna
SPANISH Judge Baltasar Garzón is back to his normal self. This you may remember is the man possessed of the peculiar notion that all defenders of the Basque right to self-determination should be considered ‘terrorists’.
On Thursday, 4 October, Judge Baltasar once again demonstrated the judicial application of this principle when he imprisoned 21 people who had been attending a meeting of pro-independence party Herri Batasuna in the village of Segura, Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Country. Four of those imprisoned were later released on bail of between €10,000 and €24,000. And among those imprisoned were, coincidentally, several members of the national executive of Herri Batasuna. Some of those jailed have been charged with “membership of a terrorist organisation”.
Pernando Barrena, who has represented Batasuna at the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis in recent years, denounced Garzón’s decision to order the arrest and imprisonment of Batasuna’s leadership as an act of “revenge”. Garzon, he said, wants to punish the Basque nationalist Left for the position they adopted in the recently failed negotiations with the government.
Barrena did not attend the meeting in Segura as he was hosting Sinn Féin’s Bairbre de Brún MEP and Pat Rice, who had travelled to the Basque Country to visit Arnaldo Otegi, Batasuna’s chief spokesperson, imprisoned last June, in Martutene Prison.
Otegi has been a key player in promoting the peace process and a negotiated settlement in the Basque Country. Sinn Féin has called for his immediate release.
Commenting on the arrest of the national executive of Batasuna by Spanish police in Segura, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said:
“We have argued for some time that the banning of Batasuna and the jailing of its political representatives is not conducive to the successful advancement of a peace process in the region. All legal restrictions against Batasuna should be lifted.”
Pernando Barrena said that, with elections due in Spain in a few short months, the ruling Spanish Socialist Party, PSOE, “needs to make a show to the Spanish of its capacity to be even more ruthless than the PP [the right-wing opposition party] when it wants to, when striking against the Basque pro-independence camp”.
Despite this latest attack against the political representatives of the independence movement, Pernando Barrena was insistent that the Basque nationalist Left is strongly committed to seeking “a solution and a peace deal” as a way out of the present political conflict. He had the following message for the Madrid government:
“The PSOE Government is not in dispute with the 23 people it has just arrested, or even with the whole of the nationalist Left movement. Their disagreement is with a people that wish to be their own masters. Their dispute is with the Basque Country.”
Following the raid on Segura, police reportedly brought the Batasuna spokesperson, Joseba Permach, to witness a further raid on the offices of Communist Party of the Basque Country headquarters. Permach is not a member of that organisation.
Of late, the Spanish media has spoken of the possibility of a new attack against Batasuna. The common thread is that Garzón’s action was initiated in the office of the Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
On 9 September, the Spanish daily, El Pais, pointed out that Zapatero’s strategy against the Basque independence movement would include attacks against the political leadership of Batasuna and sister organisations.
On 30 September, another paper, Público, announced that the judiciary would force “the renovation of Batasuna” as part of a strategy designed by the government to fight ETA ahead of the elections.