Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Spain's Harsh Truth

This article published at The Militant removes the smoke curtain around Spain's alleged democratic institutions.

Here you have it:

Spain ‘antiterror’ drive targets workers’ rights

Imperialist powers in Europe step up police spying


Targeting Moroccan immigrants, police in Spain have arrested 20 people as part of the “antiterror” campaign that the government there has intensified since the March 11 train bombings in Madrid. Those detained are being held under Spain’s Antiterrorist Law, which allows authorities to jail individuals for extended periods without a trial, restrict their access to legal counsel, and deprive them of other rights. For years the law has primarily been used to victimize Basque independence supporters.

Imperialist governments throughout Europe have seized on the Madrid bombings to step up police spying and disruption and other attacks on the rights of working people. At a March 25-26 summit in Brussels, the European Union approved a series of “antiterrorism” measures, including increased cooperation among the spy agencies of member governments.

Making it clear that his administration will use the “war on terrorism” to defend Spanish imperialist interests in the world, incoming prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has announced that the number of Spanish troops that are part of the NATO occupation force in Afghanistan will be doubled to 250. Zapatero has said that the Spanish troops in Iraq will remain there if the international occupation force comes under United Nations sponsorship.

Only five of those arrested in Spain have been charged with taking part in the March 11 attacks and “belonging to a terrorist group.”

Another six have not been accused of participation in the bombing but rather of “collaborating with a terrorist group.”

Under Spain’s Antiterrorism Law, those arrested by police can be held incommunicado for five days. They can be jailed for up to four years while prosecutors conduct an “investigation” to find charges to be brought against them.

The law, which has been used for years against Basque independence fighters—and against the leadership of the dockworkers union in 1995—gives the minister of the interior the power to order searches, wiretaps, and the opening of mail without court warrants.

Spanish, German, and French police have cooperated in the arrests. Three of those detained were formerly legal residents of Germany. According to German television, Berlin’s secret police claim the three are linked to “Hamas and other extremist groups” and has declared them to be among 300 Muslims in Germany dubbed “potential terrorists,” without explaining what that vague category means.

The media and authorities present Moroccan immigrant Jamal Zougam, a resident of Spain, as the “prime suspect” in the bombings. All but one of those arrested—the Spanish-born man, accused of selling explosives for the bombings—have denied any involvement in the attacks. One told the court that he learned of the attacks on the morning of March 11 while watching television with his children.

Of those arrested in connection with the bombings, 15 are immigrants from Morocco. Others are from Syria, Algeria, and India; one was born in Spain.

In Spain today there are an estimated 2.2 million immigrants, the largest number of whom are Moroccans, estimated to number some 334,000. About one-third of them live in Barcelona and other parts of Catalonia.

Madrid has used the March 11 train bombings, in which 190 people were killed, to broaden its “antiterrorism” offensive, especially among North African immigrants. The March 25 International Herald Tribune noted that Spanish authorities have undertaken a “crackdown on Muslim groups following the Madrid rail bombings,” including people not accused of any link to the attacks.

As one example, the big-business daily reported that Spanish High Court judge Baltasar Garzon had “ordered the return to prison of four suspected Muslim radicals who were released last year by another judge.” The judge cited “new police reports” but provided no evidence and presented no charges against them.

At the time of their original arrests in January 2003, Prime Minister José María Aznar claimed that his government had smashed a “major terror network.” Two of the men were released within a couple of months after the traces of chemical weapons they were accused of storing at their homes turned out to be laundry soap.

On March 25 police in the Spanish city of Valencia released one Syrian and two Algerian citizens, after having jailed them on accusations of membership in a “radical Islamic cell and armed group.”

Offensive against Basque nationality

Under the banner of fighting “ETA terrorism” Madrid has also stepped up its attacks on the struggle for self-determination by the Basque people, an oppressed nationality in both Spain and France. ETA is an armed Basque independence group that over the years has claimed responsibility for killing numerous Spanish government officials and others.

On March 22 Prime Minister-elect Zapatero dismissed an offer of talks announced by ETA the previous day. “The only communiqué I await from ETA,” he said, “is one in which it abandons violence.”

Aznar’s government waged an intense crackdown against Basque organizations, arresting more than 150 people last year accused of membership in ETA and claiming success in reducing the number of ETA actions.

Nearly 600 Basque political prisoners are in French or Spanish jails. In Spain, most of these have been jailed under the Antiterrorist Law.

The Socialist Party (PSOE) government of Felipe González, which preceded the Aznar administration, was particularly notorious for its repression against the Basque movement.

Under González, who served as prime minister from 1982 to 1996, the government waged a brutal “dirty war” against the Basque pro-sovereignty movement, including the use of death squads such as the Antiterrorist Liberation Group (GAL), made up of cops. Revelations about police murders of 27 people accused of being ETA members helped to end González’s reign in disgrace.

Without offering a scrap of evidence, Aznar and other government officials, along with Zapatero and other PSOE leaders, initially blamed ETA for the March 11 attacks.

The Spanish rulers sought to whip up public opinion to step up their attacks on the rights of working people and the Basque struggle.

Among those helping mobilize a large turnout for “antiterrorist” demonstrations after the bombings were the two main trade union federations—Workers’ Commissions (CC.OO.), led by the Communist Party, and the General Workers Union (UGT), led by the PSOE. In a joint statement issued March 11, the CC.OO. and UGT blamed “the terrorist ETA group.” The union officials called on workers to join a 15-minute “moment of silence” in order to “express solidarity with the victims and their families and roundly condemn terrorism.” They urged participation in nationwide government-sponsored mobilizations March 12.

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