Friday, January 16, 2004

City of Baiona Fines Demo

Today at Berria English:
Baiona court imposes 33,000 euro fine on Demo members

The Demo members have explained that they do not accept the judgement and that they will be filing an appeal with the court of Pau. They are denouncing the fact that through this judgement the Court has expressed its approval of the economic war begun by the French railways

Aitor Renteria – BAIONA (Bayonne)

Yesterday the Baiona Court announced its judgement in the case against the Demo (1) members heard on January 8. Those convicted will have to pay nearly 33,000 euros. The Magistrate has imposed two kinds of fine on the pro-Basque language activists: 400 euros for those in work and 300 euros for the students and unemployed. On top of that those convicted will have to pay the SNCF, the company that runs the French Railways, 9,300 euros in compensation for five trains which had difficulties. The Magistrate has explained that they will have to pay the compensation through joint liability, in other words, if one of the convicted is unable to pay, the rest will be responsible for payment. They will also have to pay court costs: 1,200 euros.

The Magistrate has imposed an additional penalty on the people who have already been tried for acting against the SNCF. So Gorka Torre, Pascal Mulet and Jokin Zaldunbide have had their driving licenses taken away from them for three months. Jean Francois Blanco, the Demo lawyer, explained that the Magistrate can take the decision to take away driving licenses when the fines are imposed. Gorka Torre is a Seaska (2) school teacher and yesterday he did not know how he was going to get to school today. As soon as the Magistrate’s judgement was made known, the Demo members said that they would be filing an appeal. If they do so, the Court of Pau will handle the affair.

Yesterday Demo’s Jean Noel Etxeberri said, “With the violence meted out by the police the Court of Baiona has taken a qualitative leap with this judgement.” He stressed the fact that the penalty imposed was very harsh and explained that the court agreed with the SNCF’s strategy. “The SNCF wants to take advantage of the economic war to stifle our movement, but it has to realise that we will inflict greater losses and that we are not going to give in. If they want continue this way, the cost they will incur will be two hundred times higher than that involved in putting a bilingual policy into effect in all the stations in the Northern Basque Country.”

(1) Demoak: a movement using active, non-violent means created in the Northern Basque Country (under French jurisdiction) in 2000. It demands DEMOcracy for the Basque Country, an effective Basque language policy, a Basque département and respect for the rights of Basque political prisoners.

(2) Seaska: the Association of Ikastolas or Basque-medium schools in the Northern Basque Country (under French jurisdiction).
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