Spanish state cracks down on Basque activists

October 2, 2010
Walter Wendelin.
Walter Wendelin. Photo:

On September 27, the repressive police apparatus of the Spanish state was brought to bear on the Askapena, the internationalist organisation of the Basque pro-independence left. Seven members were arrested across the Basque Country.

Among those arrested was Walter Wendelin, who does a lot of solidarity work with Latin America.

Many of the reports in the Spanish media make clear that the police operation is trying to target the relationships of the Basque pro-independence left with Latin America.

The media has often spoken of “finding information relating to the link between ETA and the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia]”.

Also arrested was Ruben Sanchez in Gasteiz; Gabi Basanez in Getxo; Unai Vazquez in Barakaldo; Itxaso Lekuona in Renteria; David Soto in Iruna; and Ganboa Aritz in Arruazu.

Reports said the police seized documents to help them understand which parts of the world Askapena is working with.

It seems the operation is particularly focused on Latin America, but those of us in the Scottish Socialist Youth wonder if the police will find anything interesting about us. We’d like any cops reading this (Spanish or British) to know that we’re proud to consider ourselves comrades of the Basque pro-independence left!

This new bout of repression is ridiculous and unjustified. Askapena is a peaceful group that organises international brigades to meet other peoples in struggle, and maintains good relations with friends of the Basque Country around the world.

Even if we were to accept the argument of the Spanish state that Askapena is just part of the apparatus of the armed Basque group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (Basque Homeland and Freedom, ETA), the fact is ETA recently announced a ceasefire and its willingness to permanently end armed operations as part of a genuine peace process for the Basque Country.

The response of the Spanish state has shown that it does not want peace, fearing it could endanger its ability to keep the Basque Country under military occupation and hold back the fight for independence and socialism.

The Spanish state arrested another nine activists in September. The latest operation takes the number of those arrested this year to 74.

This is a key time for the struggle of the Basque Country. The pro-independence left has begun a new, peaceful strategy of building unity for mass action by all who want peace and independence.

The new strategy clearly scares the Spanish state, which knows most Basque citizens want independence.

The Spanish state is determined to crush this desire for self-determination.

The Basque trade union federation LAB has launched an international petition for trade unionists and solidarity activists around the world to sign.

It denounced “this repressive new attack from [the] Spanish government” and supported calls for protests in the Basque Country on October 2.

LAB also requested support from different trade unions, organisations and friends of the Basque struggle. Solidarity messages can be sent to .

More than 42 organisations in the Basque Country issued the following petition demanding an end to banning of pro-independence groups and calling for “human, civil and political rights for everyone”.

It demanded “an end to all the actions that violate, limit or deny rights, in order to reach a new scenario in which everyone’s rights will be respected in the Basque Country”.

It demanded a “guarantee to exercise civil and political rights, human rights, both individual and collective”. It specifically demanded:

  • The right to life and to liberty;
  • That Basque prisoners be moved to the Basque Country and those who have already served their full prison terms or are ill be released;
  • The immediate end to torture and the denial of communication rights for prisoners;
  • Freedom of speech for all people in support of all options to end the conflict; and
  • The immediate legalisation of outlawed political parties and organisations, and an end to all legal proceedings, trials and sentences derived from those bannings.

[Abridged from, the website of the Scottish Socialist Youth.]

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