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30 July 2010

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Free Arnaldo Otegi - Gerry Adams

Basque nationalist leader Arnaldo Otegi and Gerry Adams at the 2007 Sinn Féin Ard Fheis

SINN FÉIN President Gerry Adams has called on the Spanish Government to release Basque nationalist leader Arnaldo Otegi. Adams said that Mr Otegi’s continued imprisonment makes building a peace process in the Basque country more difficult.
“The continued imprisonment of Basque nationalist leader Arnaldo Otegi is not only undemocratic but flies in the face of the most basic principles of conflict resolution.
“Arnaldo was arrested and imprisoned in October 2009 with other members of the Basque independence movement including Rafa Diez former secretary general of the trade union LAB. They were accused of trying to reorganise Batasuna and prepare a new strategy.
“Having been in the Basque Country many times and knowing Arnaldo personally, I am convinced that his primary political aim is to bring about a democratic and peaceful resolution to the conflict between the Basque Country and France and Spain.
“He is a widely-respected political figure with a clear and significant political mandate. His continued imprisonment makes peace building in the Basque Country more difficult.
“Last month’s developments in the Basque Country have shown that Batasuna is working to develop a clear strategy to break the political deadlock in the Basque conflict. They have made clear their commitment to take the unilateral steps in favour of a democratic peace process.
“They have also committed themselves to using exclusively political and democratic means in line with the Mitchell Principles.
“They want to see multi-party talks taking place in a non-violent context. There is now a real chance to develop a credible peace process in the Basque country. Arnaldo Otegi, as one of the key leaders of the Basque independence movement, has played an important role in all of this. Despite all of this, Arnaldo is still in prison.
“He is one of a large number of political activists imprisoned for seeking to advance the political agenda of Batasuna. Some have been released on bail but have had their political rights limited and are not allowed to participate in any political event, private political meetings, marches, or any kind of political activity. This amounts to a policy of criminalisation by the Spanish Government as harsh as that practised by the British Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher in Ireland during the 1980s.
“While no two conflicts are the same, and no two peace processes are identical, there are some basic principles that are required for a successful transition from conflict to peace and democracy to be achieved. Central to this is a process of political dialogue between the political leaders of each side to the conflict. Banning, censoring and imprisoning political ideas, political parties and political leaders undermines this.
“I am convinced of Arnaldo Otegi’s commitment to developing a peace process in his country. His continued imprisonment is an obstacle to the development of such a process. It is also contrary to basic human rights standards. Restrictions on the political rights of other members of Batasuna create additional difficulties.
“If a peace process is to take root in the Basque country then these restrictions on political parties and activists must be lifted. Crucially, Batasuna must be unbanned and Arnaldo Otegi must be released from prison.
“Recent statements made by Batasuna indicate their willingness to plan a constructive role in resolving the conflict in their country. The release of Arnaldo Otegi and the unbanning of Batasuna would demonstrate the willingness of the Spanish Government to play its part in bringing one of Europe’s oldest conflicts to an end.”

1.5 million march for Catalan independence


ONE-AND-HALF-MILLION Catalans brought Barcelona to a halt on Saturday, 10th July, in a demonstration of unprecedented size and determination for independence after a Spanish Constitutional Court ruling which severely cut back rights contained in the Catalan Statute passed both in the Catalan and Spanish parliaments in 2005.
Amongst other things, critics complain, the Catalan language is to be placed in an clearly inferior position to Spanish, rules out the possibility of Catalan justice institutions, and ensures that the Catalan economy continues entirely in Spanish hands, granting no respite for the 10% PIB drain from Catalonia to Spain that is yearly sapping the Catalan economy.
The demonstration was co-ordinated by the Catalanist association Òmnium Cultural with the support of over 1,500 other associations and parties.
Carrying the banner leading the vast demonstration, which completely filled three kilometres of the city’s widest avenues, were six presidents and former presidents of the Catalan Government and parliament from the period that these institutions were recovered, after Franco’s 40-year ban, in 1980.
This demonstration has meant a huge step forward for the ‘independentist’ positions in line with recent surveys that show that figures for those Catalans favouring this option are neck and neck with those still favouring staying in Spain.
The demonstration was called under the slogans “We are a nation” and “We decide”, in answer to the Constitutional Court’s elimination of 14 articles in the statute and the interpretation of 27 more, with the inclusion of eight references in the text to the “indissoluble unity of Spain”.
This demonstration is part of the campaign carried out since September last year in which pro-independence polls have been held in over 400 Catalan cities and towns in which over 580,000 Catalans have voted in favour of independence.

More photos http://www.lluisbrunet.cat/decidim

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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures

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