Basques arrested after huge prisoner rights march

About 80,000 people marched on January 10 in Bilbao to demand Basque prisoners be returned to their homeland by the Spanish stat

The Basque people have suffered long-standing repression and denial of national rights under Spanish rule, including many jailings of supporters of Basque self-determination.

The Basque nationalist movement is entirely committed to peaceful, non-violent means, with Basque armed group ETA declared a “permanent cessation” of armed activity in 2011. Spanish state repression has not ended, however.

The statement below was released on January 17 by the Basque Peace Process website.

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On the morning of January 12, Guardia Civil officers arrested 16 people (12 Basque lawyers and four individuals allegedly linked with [banned political group] Herrira). Thirteen were released after being heard by the judge with no bail and the last three to be heard were sent to prison without bail.

Police searched several premises, including the offices of Basque Trade Union LAB in Bilbao. Spanish media said, citing police sources, that they had been arrested on terrorist membership grounds and fiscal crime (not declaring VAT and not paying social security charges).

Three of the lawyers were arrested in Madrid, where they were to act as defendants for 19 of the 35 individuals taken to trial for their political activity. The court case was suspended, awaiting news on the lawyers.

This operation took place after the huge demonstration on Saturday, January 10, when more than 80,000 people took over Bilbao to ask for the end of the dispersal policy and respect for prisoners’ rights. This demonstration was called by the citizens' network Sare Herritarra.

During the demonstration, volunteers sold stickers and light-sticks, which were later used during the final event. The funds raised during the demonstration were taken for safekeeping into LAB’s office until money could be counted and taken to banks that wouldn’t open until Monday morning.

LAB’s Secretary General Ainhoa Etxaide and Sare Herritarra said that those funds (€90,000 ― almost $130,000) had been seized by the Guardia Civil. The Home Affairs Ministry released photos showing how the military officers counted coins and notes, and taking the money out of LAB’s office.

The operation took place on the eve of a new relevant juridical decision. The Supreme Court was gathering on January 13 to decide upon the application of a European framework decision.

A year ago, several lawyers and former prisoners were arrested in an operation dubbed “Jaque” by Spanish Security forces. The new operation seems to have been dubbed “Mate” (jaque-mate means “checkmate” as in shess).

Protest were called all around the Basque Country on January 12 and 13 and on social media the #JesuisBasque and #abokatuakLibre hashtags were used, becoming trending topics for the whole day across the Spanish state.

Trade unions, social activitsts and political parties called a demonstration for January 17 in Donostia under the slogan, “Human Rights, Resolution, Peace”.

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