Batasuna Leaders Jailed
Several leaders of Batasuna, the Basque pro-independence party, have been imprisoned for periods of 8-10 years by the Spanish National Court. The trials under the ‘Parties’ act were overtly political. The legislation and the prosecutions arising from it aim to prevent Basque activists from organising politically in support of their political objectives.
One of those imprisoned to 10 years is Basque leader Arnaldo Otegi.
Sinn Féin has been involved for several years with Batasuna activists in relaying to them the party’s experiences of peace building in Ireland. Sinn Féin MLA's Gerry Kelly and Alex Maskey along with Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún have been directly involved in this. Commenting on the trials, in a joint statement with Raymond McCartney, Sinn Féin’s Assembly spokesperson on International Affairs, they said:
Democratic rights must prevail
“Arnaldo Otegi’s credentials as a peacemaker are unchallengeable. He is to be commended. He and his senior party colleagues have been central to the painstaking rebuilding of the peace process in the Basque Country. This has advanced significantly over the past two years as a result of the unilateral actions taken by Basque activists and the intensive political work conducted by Batasuna which created the conditions in which this could happen. That is a unilateral, permanent general and verifiable ceasefire by ETA and a commitment by Basque political activists to an exclusively peaceful and democratic strategy in pursuit of political objectives.
“Today, after being sentenced. Otegi reiterated his support for these approaches and urged all others to do likewise.“Regrettably the authorities in Madrid have failed to step up to the plate in respect of their responsibilities. They have refused to grasp the enormous opportunity for lasting peace created by Otegi, his colleagues and others. Madrid needs to reverse this negative, irresponsibleand politically debilitating approach. Democratic rights must prevail. Basque political activists must be accorded their democratic right to organise politically. The electorate must be accorded the right to vote for parties and candidates of their choice. Otegi and his colleagues must be released."