Thirty-five Basque pro-independence activists, including two French, accused of having fought on “political front” for the ETA 2005 to 2008, have instead claimed their contribution to peace in the Basque Country on Thursday in the opening their trial near Madrid.
After eight years of waiting and multiple postponements, the Spanish court opened the trial of the 35 men and women who will be judged, until March 2016, for “participation in a terrorist organization.”
They must actually meet political activities – signatures of articles, press conferences, gatherings … – conducted after the ban of Batasuna organization and two other independence parties. They face up to ten years’ imprisonment and disqualification from public office for ten years.
The French Basque activist Aurore Martin and Haizpea Abrizketa appear, free, before the National Audience, including specialized court in terrorism cases, alongside historic leaders of Batasuna, Pernando Barrena and Juan Jose Petrikonera.
Before the hearing, the 35 activists showed up in ranks behind a large banner “more political trial” before the high-security annex of the National Court in San Fernando de Henares, near Madrid.
“This is clearly a case of political persecution to the extent that the serious offense alleged against the 35 activists, is to have made a political work,” said the press Pernando Barrena, spokesman for the separatist party Sortu.
Reading a short statement, Aurore Martin, 36, assured: “We are very proud to present our political militancy and we believe that the work has much to do with the new context of peace that we know the Basque Country”.
Most of the defendants are alleged members of Batasuna, illegal political party in Spain since 2003, but authorized in France until its self-dissolution in 2013.
Their defenders consider this trial “anachronistic” while many accused are now members or officers of Sortu party, created in 2012 and says seek peace.
In January, the hearings were postponed after the arrest of defense lawyers, under charges of tax evasion, money laundering and prisoners of indoctrination on behalf of ETA.
45 years after the Burgos trial
Haizpea Abrizketa, mother of Urrugne (French Basque Country), 37, was the first to file, soberly dressed in a black sweater.
“I have pursued policies, public activities in many opportunities,” she said, so they could demand their “fundamental right” to defend the ideas of independence left.
She answered “no” sound to the question “have you ever been in a relationship with ETA organization?”
Haizpea Abrizketa is nevertheless the daughter of a historical militant of ETA. Forty-five years ago to the day, December 3, 1970, his father had appeared in Burgos trial for an attack against a Spanish policeman.
This trial is still famous in particular because for the first time without camera, Basque militants incurring the death penalty denouncing repression and torture under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.
Josu Abrizketa was sentenced to 62 years in prison. Amnestied in 1977 after the death of Franco, exile in France where he was expelled in 1984, he now lives in Cuba.
ETA (ETA, Basque Homeland and Freedom) has stepped up deadly attacks for 40 years and is held responsible for the death of 829 people.
ETA renounced violence four years ago but refuses its dissolution, including demanding negotiations on the fate of its 400 inmates.
According to the Spanish Civil Guard, only “15-20 activists” still form its structure and hundreds of its members are on the run.
In the Basque country, many supporters of “dialogue” with the authorities rely on a change of government in Madrid, following the December 20 legislative, while the leader of the Conservative Government, Mariano Rajoy, is running for re-election.