1 April 2010 Edition
Community stands behind Iñaki de Juana
An emergency public meeting in Belfast last Friday to raise awareness about the impending extradition of Belfast-based Basque ex-prisoner Iñaki de Juana resolved to strengthen the campaign to stop the extradition from proceeding.
At the meeting, attended by more than 100 people and chaired by veteran republican activist Joe Austin, a sign-on statement calling for the extradition request to be rejected was launched at the event. Participants resolved that the next step in the campaign would be to seek a meeting with British government representatives to present the sign-on statement. A solidarity demonstration will also be organised to show the huge level of community support for de Juana at his appeal hearing in the High Court on 28 June.
‘Pound of flesh’
The Belfast Recorder’s Court ruled on 1 March that the extradition of de Juana to Spain to face questioning related to charges of ‘glorifying terrorism’ is to proceed. He is accused of writing a letter that was allegedly read at a rally in August 2008 and contained the Basque phrase ‘Aurrera bolie’ (‘Kick the ball forward’).
The Spanish authorities claim that this phrase constitutes ‘glorifying terrorism’. But de Juana was already in Ireland when this rally was held and he has stated that he did not write such a letter. The Spanish police admit they cannot produce it.
Opening the public meeting, Joe Austin said: “If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it is. This sort of repression is what we went through and what the Basque people continue to go through.
“If ever there were a group of people with the experience, understanding and skills to resist this extradition attempt, it’s the people in this room, the Irish republican community.”
Solicitor Niall Murphy, from de Juana’s legal team, explained the flaws in the court’s judgment allowing the extradition to proceed.
He said the original ruling in the preliminary hearing last March that the offence of ‘glorifying terrorism’ had an equivalent under the British Terrorism Act 2006 was extremely concerning.
“People in this jurisdiction would not be charged with a crime for saying ‘Tiocfaidh ár lá’ – but that is basically the equivalent of the charges Iñaki faces,” Murphy said.
“In the last hearing in November we argued that the Spanish authorities were knowingly abusing the extradition process because they know they do not have any evidence.
Don’t Extradite the Basques spokesperson Emma Clancy said that the main message the campaign wanted to leave with people was that the political nature of the court’s ruling means that there is a huge role for a political campaign to influence the outcome of the case.
“The court’s ruling was essentially a public vote of confidence in the Spanish judicial system, confidence which we believe is absolutely unwarranted,” she said.
“We need to now mobilise public opinion and make it very clear that we don’t accept this judgment, we reject this vote of confidence in the Spanish judicial system – a system which is responsible for more than 750 political prisoners being held in Spanish jails, more than at any point since the death of General Franco.”
She welcomed the fact that the case against Belfast-based Basque Arturo ‘Benat’ Villanueva had been dropped on 3 March, but noted that another young Basque man, Garikoitz Ibarluzea, had been arrested in London recently in a virtually identical case.
“The Spanish authorities are aggressively pursuing Basque political exiles around the world. Venezuela and France have recently rejected such extradition warrants.
“Belfast appears to have been singled out – but a strong, organised, politically aware community such as this, with strong ties of friendship to the Basque people, is not going to sit back and let this happen.”
De Juana’s wife, Irati Aranzabal, thanked everyone for attending the meeting and appealed for community support in the effort to defeat the latest attack in the long campaign of harassment against her husband.
The sign-on statement is available at www.dontextraditethebasques.org.
Emma Clancy, Niall Murphy from Kevin Winters Solicitors, Joe Austin, Paul Maskey MLA and Michael Culbert from Coiste na nIarchimí