Solidarity protests over Basque arrests

Protests took place in Belfast and Dublin on Saturday in solidarity with the Basque struggle and the latest victims of Spanish state repression.

The protests followed the arrest of 34 young Basque pro-independence activists in a massive operation by Spanish state forces.

The Spanish government has intensified its efforts in recent years to smash the Basque left pro-independence movement and its legitimate demands for national self-determination.

Political parties, youth movements, newspapers, cultural organisations and prisoners’ support groups have all been banned and their members imprisoned.

In Ireland, two respected Basque political activists have been fighting extradition proceedings by the Spanish government.

Over the weekend, it emerged that the Spanish authorities are to appeal a decision not to extradite one of the men, Arturo Villanueva Arteaga, who lives in Belfast.

A panel of High Court judges will convene next month for the challenge to the recent ruling made in the case.

The 33-year-old was being sought over claims he belonged to a Basque youth group.

Earlier this month the Recorder for Belfast threw out attempts to have him extradited because a European arrest warrant was held to be invalid.

Judge Tom Burgess based his decision on a lack of specific details about attendance at meetings, interviews or other evidence that Mr Villanueva was a member of the Jarrai group.

Although the warrant claimed the wanted man carried out violent and coercive actions from 1994 to 2000, Judge Burgess ruled there was no reference to dates or locations which would allow anyone to link them to him.

He said at the time: “It is the question of particularity as to his membership of that group which is missing.”

Mr Villanueva, who is released on continuing bail, has been living in Ireland for six years and helps run a tourism business.

Following Judge Burgess’s decision Mr Villanueva claimed it showed up flaws in how Spain deals with this type of case. Mr Villanueva also stressed that he has worked politically, peacefully and publicly in defence of Basque youth and Basque national rights.

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