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Anderson backs Basque Political Prisoners campaign

16 October, 2015 - by Martina Anderson MEP

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has today spoken of her support for the "Free Ortegi, bring Basque political prisoners home" campaign, which pushes for the release of four Basque political prisoners, including Arnold Ortegi.

Speaking ahead of a demonstration to be held in Gipuzkoa of Elgoibar, in the Basque Country tomorrow, calling for the release of the prisoners, Ms Anderson said,

"The campaign, "Free Ortegi, bring Basque political prisoners home", has drafted a written declaration that calls for the release of Arnaldo Otegi, leader of the Basque political party, Sortu.

"Arnaldo, like hundreds of other Basque political activists, has been imprisoned for years. He was arrested on the 13th, October 2009 whilst preparing a new peace initiative.

"Forces of the Spanish state stormed the headquarters of the Basque Trade Union LAB in Donostia when Ortegi and his comrades were preparing to debate the specifics of their new peace proposal.   

"Despite the obvious provocation of their arrest, the peace strategy endured and was widely circulated and agreed as the new way forward.

"The arrest and detention of Arnaldo Ortegi is politically motivated. Since his arrest ETA made the historic announcement of a definitive cessation of its armed activity. 

"Even in this context Arnaldo was not released. The Supreme Court refused to release him, instead reducing his sentence to 6 and a half years. Even this was contentious as five of the twelve Supreme Court judges dissented and asked for his immediate release.

MEP for the six counties, Ms Anderson continues,

"Our experience, as Irish Republicans, allows us to identify fully with this campaign and this declaration. The incarceration of political activists in Ireland during both the conflict and peace negotiations was a central issue that had to be resolved to secure Sinn Féin support.

"We acknowledge just how damaging socially, personally and politically it can be, to have activists incarcerated because of their political persuasion. We have experienced miscarriages of justice and the suspension of human rights by an oppressive state.

"It is with that in mind that we can say with confidence that the issue of prisoner release is central to any peace process in any post conflict situation in the world, and the Basque country is no exception.

"Political prisoners, when released, play an essential role in peace building. Our own experience in Ireland proves that. Former political prisoners have contributed massively to every aspect of post-conflict Irish society.

"It is with that in mind that I both support this declaration and encourage others to support it also - there can be no lasting or meaningful peace when the prisoner issue goes unresolved." ENDS

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