BOMBING OF BASQUE TOWN OF GERNIKA COMMEMORATED IN DUBLIN

Clive Sulish

The bombing of Gernika during what is sometimes termed “The Spanish Anti-Fascist War” and more often “The Spanish Civil War”1 was commemorated in Dublin by a weekend of events organised by the Gernika 80 — then and now committee. The event featured a launch of a commemorative pamphlet, including talks by Spanish Civil War historian Enda McGarry and by Irish socialist, republican and civil rights activist Bernadette McAliskey; a ska music event; talks and a planting of a “Gernika Tree” at Glasnevin cemetery.2

People in attendance at the talk in Wynne’s Hotel (chairperson’s reflection may be seen in the mirror).
(Photo source: Gernika 80 event page)

The pamphlet was on sale for €5 a copy in the large function room of the historic Wynne’s Hotel where the well-attended launch was held. The pamphlet has articles by Richard McAleavey, Enda McGarry, Stewart Reddin, Brian Hanley, Aoife Frances, Sam McGrath, Fin Dwyer, and Goiuri Alberdi.

Enda McGarry was first to speak and in a clear voice, with only an occasional glance at his notes, began by giving the background to the Gernika bombing – the military rebellion against the elected government of the Popular Front and the military campaigns that followed. General Mola was in charge of the fascist forces’ “Northern Front” while battles were taking place elsewhere, including in the suburbs of Madrid.

McGarry outlined the waves of air attack on 26th April 1937, the dropping of incendiary bombs and the strafing of running men, women and children by fighter planes and gave details of some of the horror experienced in the town. The bombing was one of the first aerial bombings of civilian population centres and Gernika, of particular historic-cultural importance to Basques, was hit on a market day. It had no anti-aircraft defences, not surprisingly, since it contained no features of significant military interest.

Going on to describe the lies told by the fascist leaders, McGarry related how in turn the communists, anarchists and Basque nationalists had been blamed for burning the town. Subsequently, apologists had tried to excuse the action by claiming that the Renteria bridge had been the target, in order to cut off the Basque nationalists’ retreat or lines of reinforcement from the northern Basque Country (i.e within the French state).

The speaker pointed out that this line of argument is still being peddled by some, including a fairly recent historian. Demolishing this falsehood by analysing the planes that were used, Heinkels, a Dornier, Junkers 52 bombers, Italian SM 79s and Messershmidt 109, along with the bombs and armament, McGarry showed how this could not be consistent with a bombing run to destroy a bridge. At Burgos airfield sat a number of planes that would have been ideal for destroying the bridge – Stukas, the most advanced dive bomber in general production of the time. They did not use them because neither was the Bridge the target nor pin-point bombing required – what those planning the attack wished to do was to carpet-bomb the area with high-explosive and incendiaries, then machine-gun civilians fleeing the bombing.

Ultimately, the historian continued, of course Generals Franco, Mola and other fascist military leaders were responsible. However McGarry believed that the Spanish fascist leaders, needing to crush Basque resistance but keep the conservative Catholic Carlist troops (from Navarra) and other right-wing Basques on board, would have been unlikely to agree to the destruction of Gernika (a holy historic place to the Carlists as well as to the Basque Nationalists). Oberstleutnant Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen was the commanding officer of the Condor Legion, Nazi Germany’s “loan” of airforce to the Spanish fascist forces – he, along with others including commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, Herman Göring, wanted to use the Spanish conflict as a testing ground for warfare from the air and the tactic of terror-bombing a civilian population, which they later employed at Warsaw, Stalingrad and other cities.

The talk ended to strong applause and the chairperson of the meeting introduced Bernadette McAliskey, a long-time socialist and Irish Republican, campaigner for civil rights and in support of migrants.

The chairperson could also have alluded to her survival of an assassination attempt by Loyalist paramilitaries the “Ulster Freedom Fighters”, in which she was shot 14 times and her husband shot too, and that she had before that twice been elected a Member of the British Parliament. Of course McAliskey herself might have requested the omission of those details.

Bernadette McAliskey speaking; sitting R-L, Finn Dwyer, Enda McGarry. (Photo source: Gernika 80 event page)

McAliskey began by praising the inclusiveness of the pamphlet, which has contributions from many different writers. She then moved on to expounding what kind of people are fascists, a term she believed too widely applied, and what kind of people fascism serves. In a rather long discourse, entirely without notes, the speaker went on to analyse what Republicanism is, rejecting a definition which said the basic unit of a Republic is the State, insisting instead along with Thomas Paine that the basic unit is the individual. Believing otherwise, she declared, makes one a nationalist rather than a Republican, á la Gerry Adams.

At times one could be forgiven for assuming that McAliskey thought she was addressing liberals, saying for example that “we don’t think enough about what goes on in other countries”, or “we don’t think about what is happening to certain groups”, such as migrants, Travellers – those considered “non-people”; or when she declared that she had no understanding of what was going on in Syria because neither her background nor experience could help her to understand it. McAliskey seemed unconscious that this is a line which was also commonly disseminated in Britain about the war in the Six Counties.

But then, McAliskey would switch without warning, as in her mischievous assertion that one should deal with liberals by throwing them in at the deep end: “they either learn to swim or they no longer give you any trouble.” Or when later, she pointed out that those in power never give up their weapons, and that one day we might present ourselves to our exploiters and insist that they step aside, as “there are more of us than there are of you”, to which they will reply: “Maybe so, but we have the weapons.”

When Bernadette McAliskey finished her talk, to sustained applause and cheers, the chairperson invited questions, of which there were three and a comment. The first question was whether McAliskey thought Gerry Adams was a psychopath, to which she discoursed on the question of insanity and on the number of lies that were told by politicians such as Gerry Adams. One of the big lies was that the IRA had forced the British to the negotiating table, which McAliskey emphatically denied was true, insisting that the reality was that the IRA went to the negotiating table because they could fight no longer, the rate of attrition was too great.

The next question, by a woman who announced that she had a USA background, in the context of her declaring that racism is about white supremacy, was about how to make the Irish aware of their role in this supremacy. Bernadette said it was an important question and that the process by which the oppressed can become the oppressors was one observed on a number of occasions in history.

This reporter thought that the questioner’s statement about the nature of racism being white supremacy might also have been questioned, a proposition disproved for example by the experience of the Armenians under the Turks, Jews and Slavs under Nazism, the Irish in Britain or at home under British rule, Irish Travellers in Irish society, etc.

The last question enquired what Bernadette would say to Basques, as some had said to the questioner, that the Irish were “lucky to have a peace process”, given that we were now approaching the second decade after the Good Friday Agreement. McAliskey replied that Ireland did not have a peace process but rather a pacification process, and that the ‘new dispensation’ divided up the Six Counties between political parties along sectarian lines, with cuts to services being imposed by those in power and substantial unemployment and unfair treatment of the “other minorities”: migrants, Travellers …. And that jails in the Six Counties today contain “about as many political prisoners as they did when the Good Friday Agreement was signed but the prisoners with less politics than had their fathers.”

End.

FOOTNOTES

1Neither term sitting well with probably most Catalans and Basques, who do not consider themselves Spanish, having a different cultural identity, most aspects of which were suppressed by the victors of the War, the General Franco dictatorship regime but had been suppressed by others before them too.

2Gernika’s historic importance to the Basques before the bombing was based on the fact that Basque nobles met there to discuss their administration of Basque lands and it was there that a Spanish King had stood, under the ancient Basque oak tree, Gernikako Arbola, the “Gernika Tree”, promising to respect their rights to rule within their territory.

SPANISH POLICEMAN TORTURER ON UN COMMITTEE FOR PREVENTION OF TORTURE

From FB page of Dublin Basque Solidarity Committee

SPANISH STATE APPOINTS POLICE OFFICER CONVICTED OF TORTURE TO UNITED NATIONS COMMITTEE FOR THE PREVENTION OF TORTURE.

Convicted Guardia Civil torturer of prisoner, Jose Maria De las Cuevas Carretero, appointed by the Spanish State to the UN Committee for the Prevention of Torture.
(Photo sourced from Gara newspaper)

No-one could accuse the Spanish authorities of failing to appreciate irony.

In 1997, in one of the rare cases of the Spanish authorities charging a police officer with torture and even rarer of conviction, Captain (then a Sergeant) José María De las Cuevas Carretero, along with fellow Guardia Civil officers Manuel Sánchez Corbi and Antonio Lozano García were found guilty of torturing Basque ETA suspect Kepa Urra when they detained him in 1992. A further three police accused were found not guilty but the medical evidence on Mr. Urra’s admission to hospital six hours after his arrest made it impossible for the Bizkaya court not to find his captorsguilty. Despite the police officers’ denials, the three were found guilty of having taken Mr. Urra to a deserted spot after this arrest and there, while he was handcuffed, to have beaten him with a blunt object and dragged him along the ground. They were sentenced to four years in prison and barred for six years from public office (a common accompaniment to prison sentence in the Spanish State).

However, one year later the Spanish Supreme Tribunal reduced the prison sentence of each to one year which meant they were free to go but with the public office disqualification still in force. The following year, they were pardoned by the Spanish Minister of Justice of the incoming PP Government of Aznar and Mr.De las Cuevas Carretero carried on with his police career, rising to the rank of Captain and participating in fora of the State and internationally.

Mr. De las Cuevas Carretero, who is a qualified lawyer, has been lecturing of the treatment of prisoners and about corruption. And who could say that he is not eminently qualified to lecture on those subjects? Or to represent the Spanish State authorities on those issues?

(News and photo source: Gara, also some background Internet research)

15 YEARS PRISON THREATENED FOR BASQUE YOUTHS IN BAR ALTERCATION PROVOKED BY SPANISH POLICE

BREAKING NEWS …………… BREAKING NEWS …………… BREAKING NEWS ……………

FIFTEEN YEARS PRISON THREATENED FOR BASQUE YOUTHS IN BAR ALTERCATION PROVOKED BY SPANISH POLICE – SIX ALREADY IN JAIL

 

Monday 15 November 2016

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

Six Basque youths are in jail without bail tonight and altogether twelve face fifteen years in prison, in a case arising out of an altercation in a bar in the southern Basque Country (i.e under Spanish occupation) involving two officers of the Guardia Civil (Spanish militarised police force) in Altsasu in the province of Nafarroa (Navarra).

Protest demonstration in Altsasu tonight. The slogan says: "FREE THE DETAINED!" (Source: Basque contacts)

Protest demonstration in Altsasu tonight. The slogan says: “FREE THE DETAINED!”
(Source: Basque contacts)

Altsasu is known as a town with a particularly strong history of Basque resistance and a continuing sympathy among the population. The town also has, by no means accidentally, one of the strongest barracks of the Guardia Civil.

On the night of 15th October, the two male Guardia Civil officers, off duty and with their female partners, went into Taberna Koxka, a well-known bar and night spot frequented by the Abertzale (pro-Basque Independence) Left, where they behaved provocatively. Inevitably the policemen were challenged by some of the patrons of the bar and a scuffle broke out.

No injuries were sustained by the police although one of them claimed an injury to his ankle, a story that fell flat when it was revealed that he was already on sick leave at the time of the incident due to an injury to his ankle. In addition, the Guardia Civil report itself, though claiming the officers’ behaviour was non-provocative and peaceful, did not claim police injuries and the province’s “autonomous” police force (but very hostile to the Abertzale Left), the Policía Foral, also denied there had been any injuries.

The pro-Spanish media not only spread police lies but added to them, one surreal story alleging that the quietly relaxing police officers and their partners had been attacked by 50 Abertzale Left youth throwing martial arts punches and kicks. Tragically, such lies will find a ready audience in much of the Spanish state outside the Basque and Catalan countries.

At first the police classified the incident as a “hate crime” but the State Prosecution upgraded its classification to “terrorism”.

The eight youths were detained in police raids this morning and taken to the National Court in Madrid although, upon learning that they had been named by the Guardia Civil in a list of 12 people involved, they had already voluntarily presented themselves to testify before a judge in Irunea who, however, could not be found. Despite that earlier voluntary attendance, arisk of fleeing” was given as the primary reason for refusing them bail. Two others were released under stringent reporting to police conditions and two others, who also presented themselves voluntarily to be tried with the others, were told to return to court tomorrow.

Guardia Civil provocatively driving through an Abertzale Left demonstration. The people in costume are Zapantzarak, traditional performers particularly in Spring festivals but often participating in Abertzale Left events also. (Source: Basque contacts).

Guardia Civil provocatively driving through an Abertzale Left demonstration.
The people in costume are Zapantzarak, traditional performers particularly in Spring festivals but often participating in Abertzale Left events also.
(Source: Basque contacts).

“Terrorism”

The Prosecution has asked for the Basque youths to be tried under Article 573 of the new Penal Code, set aside for crimes of “terrorism”, the definition of which even the UN has declared to be “excessively imprecise and broad” and which “may criminalise behaviour which is not terrorist.” Conviction under Article 573 can carry a sentence of 15 years in jail.

Tonight in Altsasu, Basque youth took to the streets in peaceful but militant protest demonstration (see photo).

This incident is not without a context: in recent months the town has seen hundreds of Guardia Civil driving through the town at various times and a demonstration organised by Abertzale Left on 22nd October was penetrated by Guardia Civil vehicles (see photo). The strongest anti-repression organisation in the Basque Country, “Ospa Mugimendua”, has an active following in the town.

Guardia Civil has his photo taken mocking an event organised by the anti-repression organisation Ospa Mugimendua. (Source: Basque contacts).

Guardia Civil has his photo taken mocking an event organised by the anti-repression organisation Ospa Mugimendua.
(Source: Basque contacts).

The Guardia Civil, although established in the Spanish state in 1844, is a militarised police force (type of carabinieri) associated in the minds of most Basques, Catalans and progressive Spaniards with the Spanish Civil War and with General Franco, whom the force enthusiastically supported. The force has a long history of violent repression, torture, murder and even rape. After the “reform” of the State with the death of Franco, the force was neither abolished nor reformed. The Guardia Civil is also much loved by the Spanish Right and the “Association of Victims of Terrorism” (sic), which regularly demands increased repression against Basques and Basque political prisoners, is mostly composed of relatives of the Guardia.

end

(Sources: Naiz and contacts in Euskal Herria)

The Disunited and Fading Spanish “Left” — handing on the baton

Diarmuid Breatnach

(See also https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/spanish-elections-result-in-most-fragmented-parliament-since-1936/ and for southern Basque Country results https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/internal-dissension-over-prisoners-coincides-with-further-decline-in-the-abertzale-lefts-vote/)

Izquierda Unida (United Left) did badly in the Spanish state’s general elections of 20th December 2014 but their trend has been a downward one for years, apparently due to its increasing friendship with one of the main political parties, the social democratic PSOE. After a short recovery in votes due the current crisis of Spanish capitalism, the rise of Podemos kicked the IU down the stairs again. And it turns out that Podemos is not as far from the IU as we might have been led to think.

The IU (Izquierda Unida) is a coalition of Trotskyist and radical-Left groupings and parties along with the PCE, the old Moscow-style Communist Party, which takes the leadership position in internal elections. The IU and the PCE also have a strong presence and influence in the leadership of both main trade unions in the Spanish state, Comissiones Obreras (in Spanish the acronym is “CCOO”) and Unión General de Trabajadores (UGT). The latter is affiliated to the PSOE but a people of other political affiliations are active within it, including the IU. The CCOO, the largest union, was founded by the PCE but since the late 1980s the party no longer controls it. The laws on industrial representation in the Spanish state favour union organisation but also favour the dominance of the CCOO and UGT. Overall, these two unions have no recent record of great militancy and are seen by many in the Spanish state as part of the status quo.

IU sticker; slogan reads "The power of the people"

IU sticker; slogan reads “The power of the people”

Izquierda Unida was formed by the PCE in the mid-1980s at a time of the party’s waning influence in society and in the trade unions, when party leaders perceived the need to work with other left forces apart from the PSOE. For decades since, the IU has a history of internal dissension as well as one of general collusion with social democracy but may now be about to fade away. On the other hand, the political party that took a big bite out of its vote, Podemos, is not as far removed from the IU as its creators and leaders try to portray.

Historical background

In 1989 Julio Anguita, then General Secretary of the PCE, was elected General Coordinator of the IU which at that time had seven elected Deputies of the Spanish Parliament (el Congreso). The IU denounced without reservations the neoliberal economic politics of the PSOE in privatisation, “reforms” of labour legislation, etc. It stated that no unity of the Left with the PSOE was possible while it bowed before the economic and financial oligarchy and was rolling out the IFM’s program for Spain. Sounds familiar ….. almost recent, doesn’t it?

For unity of the Left, Anguita insisted on adherence to a Left program and developed an analysis of politics in the Spanish state in which he described both main parties, the PP and the PSOE, as being on the opposite bank of the river to the IU. The IU should therefore work to hegemonise the Left and displace the PSOE which they proceeded to attack not only for their policies but also for scandals of financial corruption which the Right was condemning.

Despite denunciations by the PSOE-friendly sections of the media that the IU was siding with the Right of the PP against the Left of the PSOE, in the elections of that same year of 1989, the IU’s share of parliamentary deputies climbed to 17. In 1993 they gained one more and in 1996 they reached 21, they highest they have ever done.

With the approach of the general elections of 2000, Anguita, due to stand for the IU again, suffered a heart attack but shortly before the elections his place was taken by Francisco Frutos (who had also replaced him as General Secretary of the PCE two years earlier). Under Frutos, Anguita’s path was abandoned and the IU entered into an electoral pact with the PSOE. The result? Electorally, a drop from their high of 21 to only eight parliamentary deputies; in public perception, the death of hopes of a Left coalition standing against the IMF.

Far from the results teaching the IU the value of militancy and drawing a line, they became even more timid and elected Gaspar Llamazares, also a PCE activist, who flirted with the PSOE inside and outside of the Cortes, claiming that the PSOE was “one of ours”, despite differences a “party of the Left” etc. The parliamentary downward slide continued with only three deputies from the 2004 elections and only one remaining – Llamazares himself – out of those in 2008.

2008 was also the year the economic crisis hit and the IU elected another PCE activist, Cayo Lara, as General Coordinator to manage the disastrous legacy of his predecessors Frutos and Llamazares.

Three years later, in 2011, the 15M movement put hundreds of thousands on to the streets shouting “They do not represent us”, tarring PP and PSOE with the same brush as bipartisan actors for an economic and financial oligarchy. Many of the slogans were also against the main trade unions, Comissiones Obreras and UGT. In the general elections of that year, the IU with Cayo Lara leading, climbed up again to 8 elected Deputies, against the 186 of the PP (absolute majority) and the 110 of a seriously-damaged PSOE.

Another three years later, in 2014, a split from the IU, the Izquierda Anticapitalista (Anti-Capitalist Left) and a group of Politics professors from the Universidad Complutense launch the Podemos movement. Some of these professors had advised governments of the 21st Century Latin American socialist trend and some were connected to the IU. Podemos identified the PP and PSOE as a political caste in the service of IFM and of the Troika in general, and of the markets. Podemos – like the Frente Cívico ‘Somos Mayoría’ (“Citizen’s Front ‘We Are the Majority’ ”) no longer speaks in terms of Left or Right but rather of parties, one of the Right and one supposedly of the Left governing for the oligarchy instead of for the majority of the population.

The new movement and Anguita (remember him, back at the start of this article?) express approval for each other’s political line. Podemos and its leader Pablo Iglesias, a young Politics professor who theorises about marxism on his television program La Tuerka and who in interviews and discussion programs on more general television lambasts the ‘caste’, proposes to the IU a joint platform for the European Parliamentary elections of 25th May. However, preparatory discussions fail to reach agreement and each goes ahead on its own. Podemos gets five MEPs and IU gets six and Podemos decides to become a political party.

Cayo Lara declares that he will not stand for the IU in the 2015 general elections. In his place a young Deputy, Alberto Garzón is elected, also an activist of the PCE and linked to 15M, who is in favour of constructing an alliance with Podemos. Garzón is also praised by Anguita and is regarded favourably by José Luis Centella, the Secretary-General of PCE; he is the only member of the coalition to present himself in the primaries for selection as IU candidate and his selection is assured. In the General Elections of December 2015, the IU went down once more to two seats but one of the elected was Garzón.

Alberto Garzón, head of a depleted United Left and one of only two successful IU candidates in the recent General Elections

Alberto Garzón, head of a depleted United Left and one of only two successful IU candidates in the recent General Elections

Although the crisis of the Spanish capitalist system has matured considerably since then, we have almost come full circle from what Anguita proposed in 1989: the Leftist opportunist approach of correctly drawing a line between the socialists and both capitalist parties, including the social-democratic one, combined with an incorrect ambition to supplant the latter within the system. It is a plan to “take over” the state through elections. However, the satchel in which the plan is carried seems to have been handed from IU to Podemos.

Tania Sanchez of IU and Pablo Iglesias of Podemos

Tania Sanchez of IU and Pablo Iglesias of Podemos

The plan is ultimately doomed to fail, either because enough votes will not be gained or because the coalition will split before that can be achieved. In the event that it does ever actually succeed, the result will be that the State will take over the Left Coalition rather than the other way around.

In the very unlikely event that the leadership of that coalition should be unprepared to accede to the demands of the bourgeoisie, the latter have their armed forces, police, civil service and supporting media to teach the members of the Leftist Coalition the necessary lessons which many revolutionary theorists have expounded over the 20th Century and even earlier and which the Leftists have probably read but decided to forget. Or decided that they know better.

End.

NB: I have drawn very heavily on the following article in composing this article: m.eldiario.es/norte/cantabria/primerapagina/Syriza-espanola_6_355974415.html

SPANISH ELECTIONS RESULT IN MOST FRAGMENTED PARLIAMENT SINCE 1936

Diarmuid Breatnach

(For discussion on the United Left results see also https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/the-disunited-and-fading-spanish-left-handing-on-the-baton/ and for discussion on results in the southern Basque Country https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/internal-dissension-over-prisoners-coincides-with-further-decline-in-the-abertzale-lefts-vote/)

The Spanish state’s General Election was held on 20th December, four years and one month since the previous one; although in some countries not such a long period, it was the longest between elections in the state since Franco’s dictatorship. A number of financial scandals affecting the ruling right-wing Partido Popular (PP) in recent years no doubt made their leaders reluctant to go to the polls but holding off longer might have resulted in even worse results.

On the other hand, their main parliamentary opposition, the social-democratic Partido Socialista Obrero Espaňol (PSOE) were also embroiled in some financial scandals during the same period, though not as many. (Please see summary of the main financial scandals in appendix).

Both political parties had something to fear in the growth of the new political party Podemos (“We Can”) but the PSOE much more than the PP, since the image projected by Podemos is generally one of the Left. As expected, Podemos took votes from the PSOE but unexpectedly came in as the third parliamentary party in strength overall.

Pablo Iglesias celebrating Podemos' results in elections

Pablo Iglesias celebrating Podemos’ results in elections

The PP’s vote was under strong threat from the new right-wing party Ciudadanos (Citizens), which pre-elections polls predicted moving into third place in number of seats but instead came in a fourth and well below Podemos. Nevertheless, it did take votes from the PP.

On a state-wide turnout of over 70% of the electorate, the election resulted in the most politically-fragmented parliament since 1936. Although the PP remains the party with the highest vote overall and therefore the most seats, it gained only 123 out of 350, which does not allow it to form a government. Even a coalition with Ciudadanos would give the PP insufficient seats to form a majority unless they could rely on abstention by the PSOE not voting against them, a tactic which would leave the PSOE vulnerable to further gains from Podemos or others in future. A PP-PSOE coalition does not seem possible, both parties having much to lose from such a coalition in the future, not to mention the state itself, which functions under an illusion of political choice between “left” and “right”.

On the other hand, the number of seats held by PSOE (at 90, the lowest ever in its history) is even less than those of the PP and it would need to go into coalition with others in order to form an alternative government. With Podemos? Possibly … but the numbers would still be insufficient and would require others to come on board. It could function, of course, with the PP abstaining from voting against them but that in turn would probably cause further defections from the PP to Ciudadanos or a split. A PSOE-Podemos alliance would also harm the new Podemos party in the future, as it has based much of its propaganda to date on attacking “political bipartisanship” in the running of the state by the “oligarchy”. And on the 29th the party chief, Iglesias, ruled out a coalition with either of the main parties.

United Left also suffers

The Izquierda Unida bloc was also devastated, presumably by Podemos, losing six seats on previous showing and remaining with two. (For the trajectory and electoral performance of the “United Left” — Izquierda Unida – please see separate article).

Background of the Spanish state

The present form of the Spanish state emerged from a fascist dictatorship, in turn the victor of a vicious civil war. The dictatorship of 36 years came to an end without a revolution or bringing to trial of state torturers, mass murderers and robbers. The new form of the state developed a constitution insisting on the unity of the state with the explicit threat of army violence against any nation within its borders seeking independence.

General Franco giving a fascist salute

A younger General Franco giving a fascist salute

It was as though a coach with fascist emblems and full of fascists went into a paint-spraying garage, coming out a few minutes later a different colour but with all the original passengers on board. Of course, a few new passengers got in too, like the previously repressed PSOE and the CPE (Partido Comunista de Espaňa). And they also helped with the painting.

Alone among the state’s population, the majority in three of the Basque provinces voted against the 1978 Constitution (many also abstained). The more democratic articles of the Constitution never found expression in practice, especially with regard to democracy and civil rights in the Basque and Catalan countries. In the 1980s the social-democratic PSOE government was embroiled in the scandal of the GAL assassination squads operating against the Abertzale Left movement in the Basque Country, resulting in the jailing of the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Spanish state, the most senior Police Chief and a number of highly-placed officials.

The Spanish state includes within its borders as already noted most of the Basque Country and the Catalan Countries, which have their own cultures and languages. Also with a significantly different culture are Asturias and Galicia, both of them considering themselves Celtic rather than Latin-Hispanic and and having their own languages. There are in fact small movements seeking independence or greater autonomy in all other regions of the state, including in the political centre itself, Castille.

The Spanish state has long been the most unstable in the core European Union. Collusion between fascists, alleged social democrats and alleged communists internally, along with the support of the USA and the tolerance of its European partners has kept it afloat. Nevertheless, it represents the part of the EU most vulnerable to revolution, with immediate impact should that happen on the French and Portuguese states and further ripples throughout the EU. However the revolutionary and potentially revolutionary forces are currently weak, divided and riddled with opportunism.

End

APPENDIX

Some major recent corruption scandals

(From Wikipedia)

The political landscape of Spain was shaken in early 2013 by the “Bárcenas affair”. On 18 January 2013, Spanish daily El Mundo revealed that former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas had, up until 2009, used a slush fund to pay out monthly amounts, ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 euros, to leading members of the party. On 31 January 2013, Spanish daily El País published what became known as “the Bárcenas’ papers”, facsimile excerpts from handwritten ledgers in Bárcenas’ hand. Among the recipients were incumbent party leader and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Secretary-General María Dolores de Cospedal.

The PP took the position that these payments were in accordance with law. Further, on 14 July 2013, El Mundo published excerpts from several SMS between Bárcenas and Rajoy from 2011 through 2013 in which Rajoy promised help to Bárcenas and gave him encouragement. The most recent of these messages was in March 2013, when publicity on the Bárcenas affair had already broken out. Under pressure from international media and opposition parties threatening him with a motion of censure, Rajoy spoke out to Congress in an extraordinary plenary session on 1 August.

Rajoy denied any criminal responsibility, which he attributed solely to Bárcenas, but recognized “errors” and “having trusted the wrong person”. This did not prevent the opposition bloc from demanding Rajoy’s resignation, but with the PP commanding an absolute majority in Parliament and with no judicial proof on Rajoy’s direct involvement in the scandal, chances for a successful motion of censure were slim.

At the same time, a corruption scandal affecting the Duke of Palma Iñaki Urdangarín, “the Nóos case”, resulted in the charging of his spouse Cristina de Borbón, Infanta of Spain and daughter of King Juan Carlos I, for tax fraud and money laundering in April 2013. She was summoned to court in February 2014, and in November 2014, the High Court of Palma de Mallorca upheld charges against her, paving the way for her to face trial, though only on tax fraud charges.

In June 2015, King Felipe VI officially deprived his sister of her dukedom, privately announcing his intention beforehand. These corruption allegations severely eroded the Spanish Royal Family’s popularity within Spain; according to an opinion poll by the CIS, between 1995 and 2013 the Spanish monarchy’s approval rating had dropped from 7.5 to 3.68 on a scale of 10 amongst Spaniards.

In late 2014, the sudden emergence of several episodes of corruption that had taken place over the course of the past years and decades was compared to the Italian Tangentopoli episode in the 1990s. As a result, this episode has been dubbed by some media as ‘the Spanish Tangentopoli’ or ‘Black October’.

  • Starting on July 2014, former Catalonia President Jordi Pujol had come under investigation after he acknowledged possessing a large, undeclared, familiar fortune, with several of his sons being already under investigation on alleged tax offense charges. By October 2014, most of his family had already come under investigation under alleged money laundering, fraud, public contract kickbacks and other tax offenses.

  • In early October a massive expenses scandal was unconvered involving former Caja Madrid senior executives and advisers. At least 86 bankers, politicians, officers and trade union leaders were accused of using undeclared “black” credit cards between 2003 and 2012, spending over 15 million euros in private expenditures. Involved was former Caja Madrid chairman between 1996 and 2009, Miguel Blesa, but also notable members from the PP, PSOE and IU parties, such as former Deputy PM, IMF Managing Director and Caja Madrid/Bankia chairman Rodrigo Rato, as well as members from Spain’s main trade unions UGT and CCOO.

  • In late October, Judge Pablo Ruz charged former PP Secretary-General and several-times Minister during José María Aznar’s tenure, Ángel Acebes, with a possible misappropriation of public funds as a result of the Barcenas affair. A few days later, Ruz’ inquiry on a Treasury investigation unveiled that the People’s Party could have spent as much as 1.7 million euros of undeclared money on works of its national headquarters in Madrid between 2006 and 2008. On 27 October, a large anti-corruption operation, Operation Punica, resulted in 51 people arrested because of their involvement in a major scandal of public work contract kickbacks, amounting at least 250 million euros. Among those arrested were notable municipal and regional figures from both PSOE and PP, as well as a large number of politicians, councilors, officials and businessmen in the Madrid community, Murcia, Castile and León and Valencia.

On 26 November, Judge Ruz summoned Health Minister Ana Mato to court after concluding she could have benefited from several corruption crimes allegedly committed by her former husband Jesús Sepúlveda, charged in the Gürtel case. As a result, Ana Mato resigned from her office that same day, defending that she had not been charged with any penal crime, but declaring that she did not want to bring further harm to her party. A Congress plenary in which Rajoy was to announce legal reforms against corruption had been scheduled for 27 November several weeks previously; the media concluded that Rajoy had forced Mato’s resignation in order to prevent a complicated political situation on that day.

MY BASQUE FAMILY AND MUSHROOMS

Diarmuid Breatnach

Maribel Eginoa Cisneros died on the 13th of this August in the Santutxu district of Bilbao. She was many things – a democratic Basque patriot, dancer, choir singer, herbalist, mycologist, carer, wife, mother ….

I and two of my siblings travelled to attend the funeral. For me it was a farewell to a warm, intelligent and cultured person who, along with her husband, two of her daughters and a son-in-law, had been very welcoming to me. More than that or because of that, I thought of them as “my Basque family”.

Somewhere I have a Basque family related through blood and marriage but I don’t know them. Different loyalties and some German blood during the Spanish Civil War took my mother out of the Basque Country; the ties were cut and left behind. My mother became a woman in Madrid, where she met my father soon after.

Although they never met, it was because of my mother that I had first met Maribel. My mother, Lucila Helmann Menchaca (the Basques spell it Mentxaka), was born in Algorta, in the Getxo district, not far from Bilbao and spent her early childhood there. How her parents met is another story but Luci grew up bilingual in Castillian (Spanish) and German, with a Basque mother who hardly knew any Euskera (Basque) and a German father. All of Luci’s children, the five boys and one girl, knew of their mother’s childhood in the Basque Country and as we grew older, a desire grew with it to see where she had been born; each of us individually making the pilgrimage.

ONGI ETORRI – BASQUE WELCOME

I was a total stranger and low on funds on my first visit to the Basque Country. I had one contact, a woman I had met only a couple of times when she worked as an au pair in Dublin; she promised to help me get based and I arranged to phone her when I arrived. But the flight was delayed and then could not land at Bilbao airport – too much cloud, the pilot said – and we would land instead at Zaragossa, over 154 miles (248 Km) away. There the passengers had to wait for a coach and eventually arrived in Bilbao in the early hours of the morning. Of course, I had not booked an hotel, so the driver of the last taxi available tried a few without success and then brought me to the Nervión, a four-star hotel over its namesake river, dark and unlovely with a nightly rate that hit me in the gut.

Maribel and Ziortza on a visit to the Cantabrian coast

Maribel and Ziortza on a visit to the Cantabrian coast (Photo from Maribel’s family)

Next morning I phoned my contact, Ziortza and she came to the Nervión and waited while I checked out. I expected to be brought to a cheap hotel or hostel but was instead brought to her family’s home and there, for the first time, I met Ziortza’s parents, Maribel Eginoa and Josemari Echeverria (women don’t change their surnames now when they marry there). I was welcomed, fed and shown to what was to be my room during my stay. It was Ziortza’s, who moved in with her parents – the other two sisters lived in their own apartments with their partners and children. I was fed wonderfully every day too.

I was stunned by the depth of the hospitality from people I did not know, a trait I have encountered again and again among many Basques I have met. Nor was that all. Ziortza took me on her days off on excursions to some different places and towns and her sister Gurrutze and husband Gorka took me on a tour along the Bay of Biscay before turning uphill to iconic Gernika (Spanish spelling “Guernica”). Ziortza also gave me instructions on how to get to Algorta by local train, where my hand-drawn map could take me to where my mother had lived, a trip I preferred to make alone.

The next occasion I returned to Bilbao, this time to begin to know the southern Basque Country, I stayed in their apartment again, in the same room, but this time without discommoding them, since Ziortza had moved out to her own place.

 

THE UNEXPECTED ONE

Maribel and Josémaria were fairly comfortable and retired when I met them but they had some hard times behind them. Josémari’s father had been a Basque nationalist and fought against Franco, a fact that did not escape the victorious Franco authorities. When it came to time for the Spanish military service obligatory for males (much resisted in the Basque Country and now

Only a few months before her death (hard to believe) -- Maribel Eginoa

Only a few months before her death (hard to believe) — Maribel Eginoa (photo Maribel’s family)

abolished throughout the State), they sent Josémari to one of the worst places to which they could send the son of a Basque nationalist – Madrid. His superior officers took pleasure in reminding him of his father and of what they thought of Basque nationalists (or even Basques in general). For the couple, it was a difficult separation but they married as soon as he was finished with the Spanish Army. Maribel was 21 years of age.

Pyrenean landscape in Iparralde ("the northern country"), the part of the Basque Country ruled by France.

Pyrenean landscape in Iparralde (“the northern country”, the part of the Basque Country ruled by France). (photo from Internet)

In their early years together they often travelled to Iparralde (“the northern country”), the Basque part under French rule, with a Basque dance group called Dindirri. The French state has no tolerance for notions of Basque independence but does not harry the movement as does the Spanish state in Hegoalde (“the southern country”). Maribel was fluent in French as well as in Castillian.

Born ten years after the most recent of another four siblings, Maribel was the result of an unexpected pregnancy. “It was destiny,” commented one of her daughters. “The unexpected one would be the one to take care of everyone in the future.” One of Maribel’s siblings had died after a few days, another at the age of 19 due to surgical negligence, another had cerebral palsy. Maribel’s sister herself had an intellectually challenged boy and, when she emigrated with her husband and daughter, left him in Maribel’s care. As Maribel’s mother grew old and infirm, she took care of her too. Her brother with cerebral palsy, although in a home for his specialist care, spent weeks at a time in the family home. And another relative came to stay with them too, for awhile. Maribel looked after everyone.

Of course, her husband Josémari helped, as did her daughters. And they all accepted that this was how things were. And to add to that, the couple visited friends and neighbours in hospital.

LANGUAGE AND POLITICS

When I met Maribel and Josémari, I heard them speak to their daughters in Euskera — the Basque native language. But they themselves had not been raised speaking it – they went to classes to learn the language and raised their children with it. Speaking or learning Euskera was illegal under Franco except for some dispensation to Basque Catholic clergy. It was the latter who founded the first illicit “ikastolak”1 to teach Euskera and later these were set up by lay people too. The ikastola, teaching all subjects except language through Euskera, is now the school type attended by the majority in the southern Basque Country and is mainstream in the Euskadi or CAV administrative area, encompassing the provinces of Bizkaia, Alava and Guipuzkoa.

Most of "my Basque family: Front R-L: Aimar and Markel, Gurrutze's sons; Back R-L: Gurrutze, Maider, Josemari, Maddi & Ziortza.

Most of “my Basque family: Front R-L: Aimar and Markel, Gurrutze’s sons; Back R-L: Gurrutze, Maider, Josemari, Maddi & Ziortza. (Photo from Maribel’s family)

Under Spanish state repression the old Basque Nationalist Party was decimated and although still in existence, its youth wing became impatient with what they perceived as the timidity of their elders.  The PNV youth found a similar impatience among leftish Basque youth who had picked up on the vibrations of the youth and student movement of the 1960s. These youth brought to the table the narratives of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles, mixed with socialist ideas of the Cuban and Algerian revolutions. Thus was Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Homeland and Freedom) born — doubly illegal, as they espoused Basque self-determination and socialism. And so they were spied upon by the Guardia Civil, harassed, arrested, tortured, jailed … after nine years of which ETA took up arms.

Of the Spanish state’s main political parties today, the ultra-right Partido Popular and the social democratic PSOE, the first receives very little electoral support in the CAV administrative area and the second always less than the total of Basque parties. Maribel and Josémari, like most of patriotic Basque society, were presented with the choice of supporting the PNV (Basque Nationalist Party) or the Abertzale Left, the broad political movement of which ETA was a part. The PNV was known for jobbery and corruption and collusion with the Spanish state so of course Maribel and Josemari raised their family in loose allegiance to the Abertzale Left, attending many marches of the movement, public meetings, pickets and now and then hearing gunshots and explosions, hearing of people they knew going into clandestinity and others arrested, tortured and jailed. Everyone knew someone who became a political prisoner (and that is still largely the case) — a neighbour, work colleague, a past pupil. One of Maribel’s daughters saw most of her quadrilla – a small circle of Basque school friends who typically stay close throughout life – go to jail; part of her life is now organised around making visits to jails throughout the Spanish and French states, thanks to the cruel dispersal policy.

At the funeral service in the packed Iglesia del Karmelo in the Bilbao district of Santutxu, I remembered Maribel’s warm personality and hospitality. In fact it was around that hospitality that I unwittingly caused a rift between us. By the last time I returned to stay with them, I had become active in Basque solidarity work in Ireland. Beset with communication difficulties with the organisations in Euskal Herria (the Basque Country) and desperate for regular sources of accurate information, I was essentially based at their home while seeking out and establishing contacts every day. Maribel, as a considerate Basque hostess, wanted to know in advance whether I was going to be available for meals and I sometimes forgot to tell her when I was not. I also didn’t get into the Basque rhythm of lunch, supper and main meal. In my focus on finding needed contacts I just didn’t appreciate the distress I was causing and that it might have appeared, as one daughter told me, that I was treating her parent’s apartment as an hotel. In subsequent annual visits to Bilbao, staying with others, I tried to make amends but though we remained friendly, it was never as before. Some rips you can darn but the fabric is never what it was.

Iglesia del Karmelo, in Santutxu, Bilbao (photo from Internet)

Iglesia del Karmelo, in Santutxu, Bilbao

In Maribel’s funeral service, the daughters led the singing of the “Agur Jaunak”2; I had the words printed out but didn’t recognise the air at first so by the time I caught on, was unable to find the place to join in. The first time I heard it, sung in performance by Maribel and Josemaria in their choir in another church, the song brought tears to my eyes. The couple belonged to two choirs and had even performed abroad; for many years choirs had been a big thing in the Basque Country but are not so popular now. The Agur Jaunak is a moving piece of music and the final words of farewell, now laden with additional meaning, brought forth my tears at the funeral too (and in fact bring some to my eyes now even recalling it).

When I got back to Dublin I decided to write an article dedicated to Maribel. And to the Basque love of mushrooms. Maribel and her husband were both mycologists (students of fungi) and she was a great cook too. At the time the urge to write struck me, it was autumn, the optimum time for fungi, when the weather is still fairly warm in much of Europe, but also damp.

 

MOUNTAIN PEOPLE AND MUSHROOMS

The Basques imagine themselves in many forms but the most enduring is probably as a mountain people. Not all the country is mountainy, of course – it has lowlands along most of its coastline (yes, they sometimes see themselves as mariners too) and even some highlands are plateau rather than mountain. But. Mountain people, nevertheless. My mother told us that Basque patriots when they died were often cremated and their ashes carried up the mountains inside the ikurrina, the Basque national flag. On reaching the top, the flag would be shook out, consigning the ashes to the winds. The Basque irrintzi cry, like yodelling, is typical of methods that use the voice to communicate from mountain to mountain. Climbing is a popular sport and so is hill walking, often also done as a form of youth political and social activity.

Mundaka coastline in Bizkaia province on south-eastern coast -- with mountains visible behind

Mundaka coastline in Bizkaia province on south-eastern coast — with mountains visible behind (photo Wikipedia)

Even among Basques living on the coast or other lowlands, it is hard to meet a native who has not been to the mountains and high valleys and many go there regularly, sometimes in organised groups. One of the reasons they go, apart from reinforcing their cultural affinity, is to pick edible fungi. I am told that there are 100 edible species known in the Basque Country and that “between 40 and 50 varieties are eaten regularly”.3

As opposed to other regional administrations, a fee does not have to be paid in the CAV administration (three of the southern Basque provinces) to collect these mushrooms, although breaching rules can cost between 30 and 250 euros in fines. The regulations specify a collection limit of two kilograms per person per day and one is obliged to use a knife to remove and a wicker basket to store.

Sadly, illegal commercial operations have cashed in on the love of mushrooms in the Spanish state and gangs have been discovered recruiting poorly-paid migrants or unemployed natives to collect without a licence in administrations where such is a requirement, breaching conservation rules and running the risk of arrest. These gangs are less likely to succeed in the southern Basque Country, a society highly organised on a voluntary and local basis and in general quite conscious of the importance of conservation.

Display of edible fungi from the New Forest, England, showing the conservation-friendly collecting basked and knife

Display of edible fungi from the New Forest, England, showing the conservation-friendly collecting basked and knife (photo from Internet)

Further northwards, 25 km. from Iruňa (Pamplona), is the Harana (valley) Ultzama, a natural reserve, over half of it thick woodland. It is in Nafarroa (Navarre), the fourth southern Basque province.

A mycological park over 6,000 hectares has been marked out, a great luxury for mushroom-lovers. …. The park’s information point, in the municipality of Alkotz, indicates the routes where these mushroom can be found as well as information about the species and how to identify those that have been collected throughout the day.” The collection permit costs €5 per day and is available from the information office or on their website.4

The Basques go in family groups or groups of friends, knowing the edible types (or accompanied by at least one who knows) and they bring baskets, not plastic bags. The idea is that the spores of picked mushrooms will drop through the weave as they walk and so seed growths of new mushrooms further away from where the parent fungi were picked. It is actually illegal to go picking with plastic bags and though there are not many of them, the forest police will arrest people who break that law. In a nation overburdened with police forces, that force is the only one that seems free from popular resentment.

The best mushroom sites are kept secret by those who know and the location of those sites is sometimes handed down through generations. In a peninsula renowned for its types of food and preparation styles, Basque cuisine lays claim to the highest accolade. Yet it uses hardly any spices or herbs. Sea food is high on the cuisine list of course but so is the ongo, the mushroom.

On a Sunday in October 2010, I was present in Bilbao when Maribel and Josemari’s mycological group had an exhibition in a local square, where they also cooked and sold fungi. Josemari and Mirabel worked all day in the hot sun and then had their own feast with their group afterwards, though by then I imagine many would not have had a great appetite.

I was staggered by the number of different species of fungi native to Euskal Herria and their variety of shapes and colours — I was told by the couple, and can well believe it, that their association had exhibited just over 300 species in that exhibition, between edible, inedible and poisonous. This figure was down on the previous year, when they had exhibited 500! Apparently there are over 700 species known to the country.

I tried to imagine how many Irish people would attend such an exhibition in Dublin, even on a sunny day such as we had there — perhaps 20, if the organisers were lucky. The square in that Santutxu district of Bilbao was full, as were the surrounding bar/cafés. There were all ages present, from babies at their mothers’ breasts to elderly people making their way slowly through the crowds. The food was all centred around cooked edible fungi: shish kebabs of mushroom, peppers, onions; burgers made of minced mushrooms and a little flour; little mushrooms with ali-oli on top, served on small pieces cut off long bread rolls; big pieces of brown mushroom almost the size of the palm of one’s hand.

Street in the Casco Viejo medieval part of Bilbao, showing decorations for the Bilbo festival in August

Street in the Casco Viejo medieval part of Bilbao, showing decorations for the Bilbo festival in August (photo D.Breatnach)

The people queued for the food and those selling it couldn’t keep up with demand. And the people also, including children, queued to see the fungi being exhibited. Unlike the Irish, who doubtless also have varieties of edible native fungi in their land but have largely shown an interest in only the common white cultivated kind and, among certain groups of mostly young people, the ‘magic’ variety, the Basques love their fungi.

I ate some there in that square and again, with other food also, down in the Casco Viejo (the medieval part of Bilbo city), where some new friends took me de poteo (from bar to bar) and wouldn´t let me buy even one round. Many bars serve pintxos, small cold snacks, some plain enough and others more involved – normally one eats and drinks and pays the total before leaving. But some of those bars have a room upstairs or to the side where meals are served and one had an excellent restaurant where we ate well and, of course, my friends wouldn’t let me pay my share of that either. True, I had organised some solidarity work for one of their family in prison but all the same ….. When it comes to hospitality, in my opinion the Basques deserve the fame even better than the Irish, who have been justly known for that quality too.

Some of the company had been the previous day in the town of Hernani, where a rally convened to call for Basque Country independence had been banned by the Spanish state. Despite the judicial order, thousands of young people had participated in the rally and had been planning to attend the rock concert afterwards. The Basque Region Police had attacked the peaceful demonstration with plastic bullets and then baton-charged the young people. Many were injured by the plastic bullets, by batons, and by being trampled in the narrow streets when people tried to flee the charging police. It was an object lesson in the drawbacks to regional autonomy or “home rule”. However, the resistance had been so strong that the police eventually had to retreat and allow the rock concert to proceed without further interference. But that too is another story.

AGUR — SLÁN

But five years later, outside the church after Maribel’s funeral, I waited with my two brothers on the margins of the crowd. I saw some youth among the mourners, including Goth and punk types, presumably friends of Maribel and Josemari’s daughters. Most in attendance were of older generations, however. It was noticeable how prominent the women were – garrulous and assertive. There were of course representatives of various branches of the movement, who knew the couple personally.

Small section of the funeral crowd outside the church (photo D. Breatnach)

Small section of the funeral crowd outside the church with Gorka in the foreground in white shirt (photo D. Breatnach)

Inside the church I had already conveyed my condolences to Josemari, who had seemed amazed, amidst his grief, that I had travelled from Ireland for the funeral. I was surprised, in turn, that he would have expected any less; for me, there was no question – I’d have borrowed the money to go if necessary. His son-in-law burst into tears when I hugged him and that was it for me, my composure crumbled and we cried in one another’s arms. Now I waited for the crowd to thin so I could hug the daughters, the two who live in Bilbao and Maider, who lives in Gastheiz (Vitoria).
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I stayed in a friend’s house a couple more days, renewing contacts and making a few new ones, meeting some old friends and then it was back to Dublin once more. Agur to Euskal Herria and agur to Maribel Eginoa – a loss to her family, to her nation, to me and to humanity.

End.

Footnotes

1  “ikastola” = school or college; plural “ikastolak”

2  Agur translates as “goodbye” but can also be a greeting. The Agur Jaunak’s lyrics are short and simple; the song is performed usually a capella, in giving honour to a person or persons and traditionally everyone stands when it is sung. The provenance of the air is a matter under discussion but it is only the Basques who are known to have lyrics to it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNMaMNMpYEk is one of the best versions I could find on the Internet although there is a somewhat cheesy bit by one of the performers in it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7Z8E-xhYTU is vocally another lovely interpretation sung unusually high although I dislike the crescendo at the end which is not the traditional way of singing it, which is to end on a low note.

3  http://www.micologica-barakaldo.org/Micologica_Barakaldo/index.html

SIX BASQUE YOUTH EARLIER SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS IN MADRID ARE FREED

Xabat Moran, Bergoi Madernaz, Marina Sagastizabal, Aiala Zaldibar and Igarki Robles, five of the seven Basque youth sentenced to six years by the Audiencia Nacional (special Spanish Court) last Spring, have been freed this Wednesday.

Translation of press report NAIZ|from MADRID|2015/11/04|5 IRUZKINel juicio. (J. DANAE/ARGAZKI PRESS) and comment from https://www.facebook.com/dublinbasque/posts/1063431863690750

Xabat Moran, Bergoi Madernaz, Marina Sagastizabal, Igarki Robles and Aiala Zaldibar were sentenced to six years together with Ibon Esteban y Ainhoa Villaverde.

During the afternoon it emerged that the five would be freed, hours after the Supreme Court made held a public hearing in which the State Prosecutor left the possibility of reducing the sentences in the hands of the Tribunal, while the Defence asked for the accused to be cleared of all charges.

2014-09-22, Madril. Segiko militante izatearen akusaziopean 28 euskal gazteren aurkako epaiketa Madrilgo Entzutegi Nazionalean. Epaituriko 5 gazte ez dira aurkeztu epaitegira eta herri harresia antolatu dute. Argazkian, gazteak epaitegiko atean. 22-9-2014, Madrid. Juicio en la Audiencia Nacional a 28 jÛvenes acusados de pertenecer a Segi, 5 de ellos no se han presentado en el juzgado y han organizado un muro popular. En la imagen, los jÛvenes en la puerta del juzgado.

Most of the 28 youth accused of membership of SEGI outside the Court on the first day of their Madrid trial

The five have left prison and began the journey home.

The exact content of the Supreme Court’s decision is not yet known and whether this will affect the situation of Ibon Esteban and Ainhoa Villaverde is not yet known.

Twenty-eight youth were accused of membership of SEGI, the Basque Abertzale Left youth group and tried in the same trial, of which the Prosecutor withdrew charges against twelve. Later, others were discharged due to lack of evidence and in the end seven were sentenced to six years.

Villaverde, Moran, Sagastizabal and Madernaz were detained by the Ertzaintza (Basque police) before their sentences were announced, while Esteban, Robles y Zaldibar became fugitives, only to reappear in the “Human Wall” in Gastheiz/ Vitoria, where they were arrested.
End item.

Comment:
While friends and relatives will of course celebrate the decision, one commentator said: “The point for the Spanish state is to close down all legal political outlets in terms of campaigning around human, civil and political rights in the Basque Country. That leaves only the armed struggle, with which in recent decades ETA (Homeland and Freedom) has been clearly unsuccessful.”

A finding of guilt against these political activists needs to be seen in the context of the jailing of a number of political prisoners’ lawyers not so long ago and the currently ongoing trial of five political activists of Askapena, the organisation with responsibility for coordinating international solidarity work from and for the Basque Country.

For four years now ETA has been on the “permanent ceasefire” it announced at the time, yet Basque political activists continue to be charged with “assisting terrorism” or “glorifying” it.

Human wall Navarra Oct 2013

“Human wall” in Navarra (Nafarroa), October 2013

Another point to bear in mind is that when the 28 youth, including those against whom the State later withdrew charge or the Court found “not guilty”, were originally arrested in October 2014, it was in a heavy military-style operation, they were taken from the Basque Country to Madrid, held incommunicado and a number were tortured. Then when bailed, they had to return to Madrid later to face trial, they and their supporters having to pay for travel and accommodation. The Spanish state does not have a record of paying compensation to those it has wrongfully accused or even imprisoned, not to speak of tortured, except on occasion under orders from the European Court of Human Justice in Strasbourg.

The “Human Wall” was a tactic developed and employed mostly by Basque Youth as a civil disobedience tactic, beginning in 2013 and lasting until 2014. Typically, the person wanted by the authorities appeared in the middle of a large crowd of supporters who linked arms. The police (in all those cases, the Ertzaintza) were obliged, in order to detain the fugitives, to spend a number of hours breaking up the “human wall” in order to obtain their objective and hand the fugitive over to the Guardia Civil, all the time being denounced by those forming part of the ‘wall’ and protesters standing by, the whole event being filmed and photographed, reaching an international audience. Variations on the “Wall” were practiced in Donosti/ San Sebastian, Gastheiz/ Vitoria, Pasaia, Navarra and Gernika.
http://www.naiz.eus/eu/actualidad/noticia/20151104/queda-en-libertad-xabat-moran-uno-de-los-siete-condenados-por-la-an