Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The Professor's Legacy

It was a bittersweet day yesterday in the Basque Country, on one side there was happiness due to the release of four courageous Basques that have been in jail accused of abetting terrorrism just because they belong to Udalbiltza, the Basque Country political institution that empompasses the seven provinces. After more than a year the Spanish authorities have been unable to come up with solid evidence so they ordered them released on bail, which means that now they have to pay their ransoms and still fight hard to prove their innocence since the Spanish system refuses to admit they are victims of a witch hunt and exonerate them.

And all of this is the legacy that the spanking new Professor at Georgetown University leaves behind. Hundreds of Basques are today in jail for the only crime of loving their country and working towards the advancement of Basque culture, language and the dream of achieving self determination.

While the Spanish regime was busy prosecuting innocent people (and holding their lives in the mean time preventing them from using them to strenghten the Basque organizations working towards solidifying the Basque cultural and political identities), the real terrorists got deep within the Spanish state and were able to plan the attacks on Madrid and the subsequent acts of violence like the bomb found on a train last week and the standoff that resulted on the death of four terrorists and one special forces agent, a bombing that also destroyed a building and wounded eleven police officers.

And I say it was bittersweet because eight more people related to the Udalbiltza case are still in jail, waiting for the Spanish Inquisidor Baltasar Garzon to either free them or hold them for even a longer time on some hokey pokey charges,

Freedom to the Udalbiltza eight!

Arkotxa, Esnaola, Etxezaharreta and Aranburu to go free

If the four are released today, another seven linked to the case will still be in prison

Eider Goenaga – DONOSTIA (San Sebastian)
Loren Arkotxa, Imanol Esnaola, Miren Josu Aranburu and Xarlo Etxezaharreta, four
of the people linked to the Udalbiltza case and who had been in custody, are to be allowed to leave prison today after the Spanish National Criminal Court ordered that they should be released on bail. The Court’s decision was announced yesterday, but the families of the four did not have time to pay. Once they have done so, the detainees could leave prison today. Arkotxa, Esnaola and Aranburu have been ordered to post bail of 30,000 euros each and Etxezaharreta 60,000 euros.

When the four are released, seven will remain in custody in connection with the Udalbiltza case: Karmele Urbistondo, Miriam Campos, Lander Etxebarria, Txema Jurado, Oskar Goñi, Xabier Alegria and Joseba Garmendia. Back in September and October last year Eider Casanova, Leire Idoiaga and Larraitz Sanzberro were released by Judge Baltasar Garzon.

On April 29 it will be a year since Judge Baltasar Garzon ordered the raid on Udalbiltza. His committal warrant states that Udalbiltza is “ ETA’s tool”. He outlawed Udalbiltza and accused the detainees of being ETA members and of promoting the creation of the AuB and the town platforms (*) on the orders of the organisation. The Spanish Supreme Court in fact based its suspension of the AuB and the town platforms on Garzon’s warrant.

In that police raid Garzon remanded eight people in custody –Campos, Etxebarria, Idoiaga, Casanova, Urbistondo, Sanzberro, Jurado and Goñi– and despite the Public Prosecutor’s request to allow Idoiaga to go free, the Judge remanded them all in custody. But the Udalbiltza operation did not end there. On May 23 last year Garzon summoned four more people to give evidence and except for Xabier Iragorri, the Mayor of Oiartzun (Gipuzkoa), the other three –Arkotxa, Esnaola and Aranburu– were remanded in custody. On the same day he also questioned Xabier Alegria, detained in connection with the operation against Egunkaria, and Joseba Garmendia, in custody in the operation against Batasuna’s Herriko Tabernas and party premises. Both were already in custody and Garzon added Udalbiltza to their previous charges. The last arrest was that of Xarlo Etxezaharreta. Garzon took advantage of a visit to the Southern Basque Country of this former elected representative of Hazparne (Lapurdi). His arrest took place in Abadiño (Bizkaia) when he was participating in Askapena’s Internationalist Day. He was charged with working to consolidate Udalbiltza in the Northern Basque Country, despite the fact that it had not been outlawed there.

(*) Set up to represent Basque nationalist left interests in the May 2003 municipal elections after Batasuna had been banned.

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