Update on recent arrests in the Basque Country

Bella Caledonia recently published a disturbing email concerning the arrest in Pamplona of a young Basque woman, Edurne. Since then we’ve discovered that nine other Basques were arrested on the same night. Edurne has since been released on bail whilst others arrested that night were less fortunate. Edurne’s partner, Anders (a Scot), sent a further email explaining what happened:

“Hello everyone!

I’ll try to give you a brief update on how things are.

There were a total of 10 people arrested on Monday night. 4 by the Spanish National Police and 6 by the Guardia Civil, in 2 simultaneous raids corresponding to 2 separate cases. This meant that the investigating judge was unable to keep them all under Incommunicado detention until the end, because he would not have had enough time to question all of them on Saturday. Incidentally, he refused Habeas Corpus for all of them.

On Friday, early in the afternoon, the 4 people arrested by the Police were taken before the investigation judge. This was Edurne, a girl called Oihana, and two guys, Miguel Angel “Pitu” and Koldo.

Oiahan was released with no charges. Koldo and Edurne were to be remanded in custody, avoidable by depositing bail. The initial quantities were lowered by the judge to 12,000 Euro each. Pitu was sent to jail. All four reported having been correctly treated during detention (being allowed to refuse to give a statement to the police, seeing the forensic doctor, and generally being left alone in the cell) except during the four hour and a half drive to Madrid.

Edurne said the police said they were going to “play a game” and if she “didn’t behave” she “would find out what was what”. This meant that she was forced down, bent over, with her head between her knees, handcuffed at the back and blindfolded for almost all the drive. Meanwhile they asked her questions, threatened her with handing her over to the Guardia Civil, arresting me, her father, suffocating her with a plastic bag (they rustled it so she could hear), they played mind games like saying “there go the others, they’re really laying into that one” (meaning one of the other detainees in another car) or “look at that ditch there, we could just dig a hole and bury her and no-one would ever find her” etc.

She said she didn’t believe this stuff. When she got to Madrid she had a panic attack (unable to breathe, due to asthma she had as a kid. It happens to her in situations of great stress) so she was taken to the forensic doctor and given a pill and after that she was OK except for another less serious panic attack the following day.

2 of the people held by the Guardia Civil were also taken before the judge on Friday: Iker Moreno, son of a spokesman for the Basque Independence movement, and Xabier Beortegi. Xabier was released and Iker was sent to jail. They both reported having been subjected to very hard torture.

The remaining 4 being held by the GC were taken to the judge yesterday. All 4 were sent to prison. 3 of them (the exception being Gorka Mayo, a local spokesman for the Basque movement) reported having been badly tortured (beatings, suffocation, physical exercise…)

These are the main details right now.

As regards Edurne, she will have to go and sign her name at the local court every Monday and is banned from leaving Spain. The case is still kept secret, so we do not know all the details. The charges relate to “managing the web page apurtu.org , recording, editing and uploading videos”. We will have to wait for developments. All the stuff the police took is still with the police. We do not know if we will get it back, if so, when, or in what state it will be. We will try to get at least our work-related contents back.

Edurne herself is well. Very tired and rather emotional, but otherwise fine. We will see how things go when the shock passes and we get back into a routine.

I think she has been very tough, mentally, and she certainly kept the heid!

We are off to have a meal with friends (yesterday it was family) to celebrate, although we are all very concerned, sad and angry at the treatment of the other detainees and their imprisonment. Friday was a very long and tiring day in Madrid, standing 300 yards from the court (the police don’t let you get nearer) all day, waiting for news, then waiting to be allowed to deposit bail, etc. It is hard to be immensely relieved when you get the news, while standing next to the relatives of people who are going to prison and/or have been tortured.

Thank you for your support, your understanding, your efforts and your love. Edurne and I are truly privileged to have you as a friend (and family of course!).

Lots of love

Ander

NOTE

Last month the armed Basque organisation ETA announced that their previous cease-fire had been made permanent. The announcement ushers in a new era of peaceful politics in the Basque country, following 52 years of conflict between ETA and the Spanish state. The announcement has been welcomed by most international observers. Further information and updates on the Basque Peace Process (from the perpective of the Basque pro-Independence Left) can be found here.

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