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Anderson demands an end to Spain’s political trials of Basque activists

9 December, 2015 - by Martina Anderson MEP

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has demanded the Spanish government bring an immediate end to political trials against Basque pro-independence activists.

Ms Anderson was speaking as a Basque international solidarity activist who was tried in November and is awaiting the verdict, Unai Vázquez, addressed a Basque Friendship Group meeting in the European Parliament in Brussels tonight.

 The Sinn Féin MEP said: “Unai, a university professor, is awaiting the verdict as one of five people who were tried as a result of their activism in Askapena, a Basque international solidarity organisation.

“The Askapena five were arrested with three others in September 2010, just weeks after ETA declared a definitive end to armed actions. This pattern of Spanish provocation and repression against unilateral Basque initiatives for peace has continued to this day, and these continuing political trials are part of this strategy.

 “After listening to the details of the Askapena trial, I am simply stunned that such an abuse of human rights and basic procedural fairness has taken place in a modern European state.

 “The investigation into the members of Askapena was initiated in 2008 after an activist received a death threat from a self-declared ring wing paramilitary member in Colombia, accusing the group of spreading pro-FARC messages in Europe. When Askapena reported this to the authorities, instead of investigating the death threats against them, the court opened an investigation into Askapena and alleged links to FARC.

 “Despite investigating for more than a year, the Spanish authorities were unable to turn up a shred of evidence of such alleged links. Instead they decided, shortly after the declaration of ETA of their end to armed actions in 2010, to continue the investigation under a different guise – to accuse Askapena activists of membership of ETA. Unable to produce evidence of this charge, in 2014 this accusation of ETA membership was changed to ‘collaboration’ with ETA.

 “The Spanish judiciary has repeatedly shifted the goalposts throughout this entire process in a brazen and astonishing violation of procedural fairness. This is absolutely unacceptable. Meanwhile, those who have been charged have had to put their lives on hold for the past five years.

 “These activists were arrested in dawn raids on their homes, held in incommunicado detention, and denied access to lawyers of their choosing during their interrogations and court appearances. In other words, they were denied what the European institutions acknowledge as being fundamental human rights.” 

 Ms Anderson continued: “There are currently more than 50 people serving sentences in Spanish prisons who have been jailed solely for their political activity. Another 35 activists are due to be tried in the near future in another mass trial, accused of membership of Batasuna – a political party which no longer even exists.

 “The pursuit of such trials is nonsensical in the new situation that the Basque people have endorsed, and in which Basque political parties are now legal. The Spanish government needs to listen to the international community, which has overwhelmingly endorsed the Basque initiatives for peace – and bring an immediate end to these acts of political persecution.” ENDS

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