Basque language activists arrested
The latst in a series of moves against Basque cultural organisations has seen the imprisonment by Judge Baltasar Garzón of four members of AEK -the Alfabetatze Euskalduntze Koordinakundea (AEK), an independent organisation working on adult literacy in Basque Language since 1982. In the last few months, the governing Spanish right-wing Popular Party has banned a series of books on Basque history from Basque schools. There were also renewed attacks against different Basque publications, like Ardi Beltza, a monthly magazine whose editor, Pepe Rey, could face imprisonment over a video about the Spanish media.
This follows the imprisonment of the members of the National Executive of the pro-independence party Herri Batasuna (HB) in autumn 1997 and the closure of the newspaper Egin and the radio station Egin Irratia during the summer of 1998, under the orders of Judge Garzón. In February 1999, the International Relations team of HB were imprisoned by Garzón, accused of being ``the Foreign Affairs Department of ETA''. Today, most of them have been released due to lack of evidence.
On 13 September 2000, 20 members of the political organisation Ekin were arrested because Garzón considered them ``political commissaries for ETA''. On 5 October, and under Garzón's orders, nine people are arrested for advocating civil disobedience through the use of a Basque Identity Card.
Now it is the turn of the Basque Language -euskara. And in this case, as in the mentioned above, the Spanish establishment has followed the same process. First there is an attack from the Spanish media against the targeted organisation, which is accused by the government-controlled media of being ``an ETA accomplice''. In the case of AEK, the attack started two years ago, with a continuous association in the media of the literacy organisation and ETA.
On 22 November, Judge Garzón named 14 members and former members of AEK, formally accused them of ``forming part of the so-called `mass front' of the criminal structure of ETA-KAS through the Basque Patriotic Socialist Committees, assuming the teaching of the Basque language as an essential element for the construction of a new state aimed to subvert and illegitimatise the Spanish State''.
Garzón also accused them of financing ETA through ``raffles, membership fees, and the sale of diverse materials''. Garzón presented additional charges in relation to supposed Social Security and tax fraud.
AEK's board of directors has denied any relationship with ETA ``or any other organisation not related to the Basque language teaching or promotion''.
Organisations and groups working for the revival of the Basque language have reacted with outrage and surprise.