Thursday, April 30, 2009

Arrests of Refugees and Dispersal

We received this text from our friends at the Irish Basque Committees:

Basque political refugees arrested in Belfast and Venezuela

At the request of the Spanish authorities Arturo “Benat” Villanueva was arrested last Wednesday by the Extraditions Team of the PSNI. The arrest happened at 8am at his home. The PSNI officers involved in the arrest were correct throughout the arrest and the custody at the Musgrave barracks.

40 people supported Benat inside and outside the Court buildings. After a hearing before Judge Burgess and having previously agreed with both the Crown prosecution and the PSNI Benat was released on a £5000 bail, curfew at home from 9pm to 7am, he has to remain within the six counties and has to sign at a barracks every day once. A full hearing will be held on the 13th of May at the Lagan Court in Belfast.

As we’ve reported many times Benat’s case is not an isolated one, it’s part of a broader pattern of repression against the Basque Country . Over the last decade newspapers, political parties, youth groups, cultural associations...have been banned and their members arrested.

Benat has been living and working openly in Belfast for the past 5 and half years. He said: “I’ve made this country my home, made many great friends and become a proud part of a very strong community. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody for the welcome and support they’ve extended to myself and the Basque people over the years.”

Between Tuesday and Wednesday Basque political refugee Inaki Etxeberria was arrested in Venezuela. Very little information has come out surrounding this arrest.

The Basque pro-independence movement spoke out against the arrests and branded them as political and reflection of the overall political situation of repression in the Basque Country. The pro-independence movement asked other governments not to follow the Spanish authorities estrategy. Finally expressed their solidarity with the arrested and thanked those in Ireland, Venezuela and the rest of the world who have welcomed and supported Basque refugees along the years.

The Belfast Basque Solidarity Committee has stated that the arrest of a member of the Basque community , living in Belfast, is yet more evidence of the Spanish authorities attack on Basque Civil society.

Speaking on Wednesday a spokesperson for the group, Kevin Morrison, said:

“The arrest of a member of the Basque community, living in Belfast, Arturo “Benat” Villanueva, is yet more evidence of the continuation of attacks by the Spanish government on Basque civil society.

“The extradition warrant issued by the Spanish authorities is accusing Arturo Villanueva of membership of Segi, a youth organization banned in 2005 in a series of draconian clampdowns on Basque cultural and societal organizations.

“Since then newspapers and radio stations have been closed, human rights groups have been banned, and Batasuna, the Basque pro-independence party has been proscribed and its leadership arrested and imprisoned. All of these are blatant infringements of basic human rights and the freedom of speech within the European Union.

“This attitude of the Spanish government has recently been described by UN Rapporteur, Martin Scheinin as ‘too broad’ targeting ‘groups that have nothing to do with violence’.

“Benat has been living openly in Belfast for over five years and now has a life here.. We are a calling for immediate dropping of this case and an overall end to such repression of Basque civil society.”

20 years of dispersal policy

The EPPK/Basque Political Prisoners Collective released a statement on the 20th anniversary of the implementation of the dispersal policy by the Spanish government followed after by the French authorities. Since 1989 hundreds of Basque prisoners have been scattered in dozens of prisons across Spain and France. Nowadays 765 Basque political prisoners are imprisoned in 85 jails.

In the statement the EPPK says they won’t allow to be used to damage the Basque National Liberation Movement. They called upon Basque society to continue working against the dispersal policy.

The EPPK goes on to ask the French and Spanish government to take the prisons policies out of the confrontation lines and take the path of common sense.

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