Basques highlight unjust arrests
BY MARTIN SPAIN
A three-member Herri Batasuna delegation from the Basque Country was in Ireland this week to highlight the continued detention of members of the party's international department by the Spanish authorities.
Iratxe Renteria, the new head of the party's international depertment, is pictured here with fellow HB representative Eusebio Lasa. They were in Ireland with Basque MEP Koldo Gorostiaga, who told journalists at a press conference in Dublin on Tuesday, 28 March, that ``the Spanish government is trying to criminalise our organisation and keep us weak''.
He told how ten members of HB's eleven-member international relations department had been arrested and charged earlier this year with membership of or collaboration with the armed group ETA. Five remain in jail, denied bail, where they can be held under Spanish law for up to four years before trial, while an international arrest warrant has been issued for the sole member of the department who escaped arrest. The Spanish government adopted a similar tactic against Herri Batasuna in 1997, when 23 members of its national leadership were arrested and jailed on similar charges. The Spanish Constitutional Court later overturned their detention, but not before they had spent two years in jail.
``The Spanish government is trying to say that there is just one problem, the actions of ETA,'' said Gorostiaga, ``and their answer is repression. But this is a very old political problem which requires a political solution and the French and Spanish governments need to recognise that. The arrest of our international department has caused us many problems in terms of contacts lost, but this will not deter us from lobbying interbnationally for a political solution to the situation in the Basque Country.''
The Basque delegation met with representatives of a number of political parties while they were in Ireland, including Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.