Commanded by French super-judge, Laurence Le Vert, French military police developed yesterday a major operation of search and capture of Basque acivists in the Northern Basque Country.
The police operation was centered at the see of Batasuna in Baiona (the party is legal in France) that was searched all day long but it also included arrests of many activists all around the Northern Basque Country: Xabi Larralde, Giulano Cavaterra, Frederic Karrikart and Gwenaëlle Morvan in Baiona, Patricia Martinon and Einaut Elosegi in Aiherra, Haritza Galarraga in Senpere, Maide Duhalde and François Lefort in Lekuine, Jokin Etxebarria in Urruina, Aurore Martin in Anhauze, Antton Etxebarri in Bunuze, Jon Irazola in Lekorne, Jean-Claude Aguerre in Jutsi. Two other people: Jon Goio and Zigor Goieaskoetxea, who are under a European arrest order, issued by Spain, could not be found in their domiciles.
The search of the offices of the Basque party in Baiona lasted all day long, time while the Cordeliers street was closed to the public. In the evening there was a protest demonstration, gathering some 250 people. Banners with the texts "Repression is not the way!" and "Batasuna resist!" were visible in many places of Baiona, both in the streets and at private homes. Other protests happened all through the Northern Basque Country.
The legal pretexts for this intervention appear to be two distinct issues: one one side the "Kalaka case" and the investigation of the attacks against a hotel at Bidarraitz, that would be the alleged background for the arrest of seven people, and on the other the case on the financing of the independentist movement, that (we must not forget) it is still legal in France, in spite of many bank accounts having been blocked judicially in relation to it.
Two images of the arrests
Batasuna denounced that this operation is in practice a covert illegalization of the nationalist party also in the North. Labor unions such as the Union of Patriotic Workers (LAB) and other human rights watchdog Askatasuna (freedom) and the youth movement Segi (go on) also denounced the agression against the Basque nationalist movement, denouncing the connivence between Spain and France.
But the reactions were not limited to Basque nationalists: the social-democrat Frantxua Maitia (regional councilor) declaredto be most surprised and sustained that Batasuna is a legal party that operates open and publicly. The Green Party also protested against the police intervention and said that it is an attack against freedom of political activity, warning to Paris that violence only brings more violence. But the major of Baiona, Jean Grennet, eluded to make any comments.
Simultaneously, the interior ministers of the two states controlling the Basque Country, M. Alliot-Marie and A. Rubalcaba, had a meeting, after which Alliot-Marie declined to comment if France ispreparing to illegalize Batasuna saying that such decision is not only competence of her ministry.
Images of the protests
Update (Sep 26):
Four of the arrested (Elosegi, Morvan, Etxebarria and Cavaterra) have been set free. Another person under arrest warrant, Mirentxu Lako (companion of Jean-Claude Aguerre), is still free because she was about to give birth, something that happened yesterday. This leaves the number of arrested people at 10, according to Askatasuna. The place of arrest is not clear, being rumored that they are in the prisions of Baiona and Pau, and the charges are not clear either. The search of the Batasuna see continued yesterday.
Dozens of people demonstrated again in several locations of the Northern Basque Country. Batasuna has called for a national demonstration at Baiona tomorrow Saturday at 16:00.
Batsuna also offered a press conference saying that France fears the growth of Basque nationalism in the North, directly confronted with the centralist Jacobine ideals of the French Republic, and that is the reason why it is trying to destroy this political structure and project.
In a separate article, Iñaki Altuna claims that the reason for this attack is the growing influence of Batasuna in the North, which, in coalition with Abertzaleen Batasuna (Patriots' Union), achieved historical success in the last elections, threatening the bipartisan monopoly of Northern Basque politics by the major French parties and demanding not anymore a mere departament but a true regional autonomy and the right of self determination for the North.
Update (Sep 27):
Yesterday nearly all arrested were set free. Only Jean-Claude Larralde remained in custody tonight. The search of the offices of Batasuna also appears to be over, after three days.
The legal pretexts are also somewhat more clear: there are three different causes being used here: the "Kalaka case", an alleged network of financing of the Nationalist Left, the attacks against the hotels at Bidarraitz, and specialy a preliminary investigation regarding the financing of the Communist Party of the Basque Lands.
None of the causes seem solid, as evidenced by all arrested being set free but they could easily cause the illegalization of Batasuna, that in the North has status of association, not political party, and could therefore be banned by a mere administrative decission. It is strongly speculated that this is after all the true goal of judge Le Vert.