Basque repression intensifies
Toirleach Mac Eochaidh reports from the Basque Country about
recent arrests and the death of an ETA Volunteer
Some readers may be aware of the situation in the Basque Country
at present. If not, that's understandable as the international
press and audio-visual media has distorted the reality of the
Basque-Spanish conflict. Invariably it becomes newsworthy only
when the left independence movement can be portrayed as being
merely the product of a few ``irrational terrorists''.
``Terrorist'' is the preferred word of the state to describe many
different organisations that oppose the status quo. The image it
conjures is successful in stifling debate on the reasons for
conflict. In the last ten days in Euskal Herria (the Basque
Country) I observed the ever increasing terrorism of the state.
I arrived in the quiet fishing village of Hondarribia to find
that five people had been arrested for allegedly ``collaborating
with an armed organisation''. ``Collaboration'' is an all embracing
term, used to arrest as many people as possible on as little
evidence as possible. (The entire national executive of the
political party Herri Batasuna were sentenced in a show trial on
the same charge last year.)
Patricia Veldez was one of those arrested,in Hondarrribia, and so
far the only one to be released. Her story, horrific in itself,
is just a small part of the Spanish state's ``dirty war''.
Unknown to friends and family she was taken to Madrid to begin a
five day period of interrogation. During this period she had no
access to a lawyer or contact with friends. She was hooded for
the interrogation process and therefore is unaware of the
identity of the men who continuously threatened her with rape.
She suffered shock treatment to her breasts; but she says the
psychological torture was more unbearable than the physical
beatings. During the interrogation the police questioning
revealed that they had intimate and wide ranging knowledge of the
everyday activites of her, her friends, family and associates.
After the five days she was released without charge. She was
``free'' to return home (her husband is, thus far, not so lucky),
``free'' to be daily tormented by the fear of rape, ``free'' with the
knowledge that her every move is being watched and recorded.
``Free'' to be mentally tortured.
Early on Friday 5 June the Basque police exploded their way into
the flat of Inaxi Zeberio - an ETA activist who was also active
with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua - and shot her dead. The police
version of events is that the explosion wakened her, she sought
her gun and opened fire. The police claim that it was then that
she was shot.
The reaction of another occupant of the flat (who jumped through
the window on the third floor) suggests that he believed that the
police had more more ominous objectives. The claim of ``legitimate
defence'' by the authorities is disputed by Herri Batasuna who see
in these activities the continuation of a shoot-to-kill policy.
None of the 10,000 peple who turned up to pay their last respects
to Inaxi believe the official version of events.
The atmosphere I experienced over these days was tense and very
emotional. In the taverns in Donostia where the Basque youth
gather at weekends the mood was subdued and depressed. To make
matters worse the police intensified their controls. The many
visitors to the festival for the Basque language (Araba Euskaraz)
endured long delays as car after car was searched by the Guardia
In the remote village of Lizarza thousands flocked to pay their
last respects to Inaxi. Proceedings were delayed repeatedly as
people continued to flow into the small town. The fear and
sadness I had witnessed over the previous days subsided as the
mourners listened to a description of Inaxi's activities at home
and abroad. As fists were raised and the Irritzi wailed (a
traditional means of communication used by shepherds) the mood
was transformed from one of mutual sadness to one of strength,
solidarity and courage. Afterwards the mourners returned to their
distant towns and villages intent on publicly displaying their
distaste at the recent police activities. These demonstrations
were all met with the same reaction; volley after volley of
rubber bullets were fired to disperse the demonstrators. The
injuries received that night didn't receive media attention.
The Basque left has kept a close eye on events in Ireland and
were hoping that a similar negotiation process could end the
conflict in the Basque country. At the moment that possibility
looks highly unlikely. The Spanish state reacted to their peace
proposal - The Democratic Alternative - by jailing those
promoting it. The state believes it will solve the conflict in
the Basque country through intimidation and severe repressive
measures. They believe they can counter opposition through
The Basque people have long shown an interest in the conflict
here and consistently shown solidarity with Irish republicans.
Irish republicans must take a deeper look at the situation in
Euskal Herria and examine how we can show our support during this
difficult period. Without international pressure the Spanish
government will continue to terrorise the Basque people and
remain reticent in its refusal to negotiate an end to the