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12 January 2014 Edition

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New year needs new attitude by Madrid

Basque political prisoners at centre of peace process but still persecuted

Pernando Barrena, Abertzale Left – Sortu

The International Peace Conference and ETA ending armed struggle should have brought a positive government approach – in fact, the political prisoners’ situation got worse

BASQUE POLITICAL PRISONERS face this new year still being the real centre of the peace process in the Basque Country.

The International Peace Conference of Donostia/San Sebastian and the announcement by ETA declaring the end of armed struggle opened up a new political era that should have brought a positive government approach to the issues of political dialogue and prisoners. This never happened and the living conditions of the prisoners actually got worse.

Good news came from the Human Rights European Court of Strasbourg that last October declared void the Spanish legal framework for uncovered life sentences against Basque prisoners. It resulted in the immediate release of over 60 long-term Basque inmates before the end of the year.

An overwhelming majority of the Basque people stand for a early release programme as political prisoners are concerned. The issue of prisoners is a central one for the development of the ongoing peace process.

At the moment, more than 500 prisoners are kept scattered in over 70 prisons all around France and Spain; outside of that figure, three remain in custody in Ireland, Portugal and England.

Basque nationalist political parties (PNV and pro-independence left-wing alliance EH BILDU) stand for the repatriation of all the political prisoners to Basque prisons as fast as possible; the immediate release of ill prisoners and those having served 75% of given sentences; and the application of the prisoners’ ordinary legal rights on the basis of transitional justice principles.

Basque political prisoners publicly support the political strategy adopted by the Abertzale Left – Sortu and stand for dialogue to overcome the political conflict and its outcome as the aftermath of violent politics is involved.

They also underline the need of political talks in order to make real that all the Basques are entitled to decide on their own future and that such an exercise is fully respected by Spain and France.

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