Egunkaria, the first and then only newspaper in Basque language was created by popular subscription in 1990 and abruptly closed in 2003 by the Spanish Neoinquisition (Audiencia Nacional: political tribunal inherited from the fascist regime). The accusations? The same as for so many other political attacks: all that has a Basque identity is ETA.
Immediately after its closure a new popular subscription managed to create a new Basque-language daily out of the blue in few months: Berria.
After much social and international upheaval against what was perceived as the most blatantly political persecution against press and linguistic freedom of all the Neoinquisition abuses, some months ago the state accusation finally dropped the case. But two fascist organizations: the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT) and Dignidad y Justicia (Dignity and Justice) have acted as private prosecution and, against all precedent (never before an AN judge had taken a case dropped by the state), the judge in charge, Javier Gómez Bermúdez, accepted the case.
Yesterday, the trial as such has finally begun. Five journalists (Iñaki Uria, Xabier Oleaga, Joan Mari Torrealdai, Martxelo Otamendi and Txema Azurmendi) are being tried for collaboration with ETA. In fact they are being processed for being proud Basques.
Right to left: Joan Mari Torrealdai, Martxelo Otamendi, Iñaki Uria, Txema Auzmendi and Xabier Oleaga just before entering the political tribunal at Madrid
In the first day, the five political victims rejected to reply to the private accusation's questions and, in the defense turn, they denied any relation at all with ETA and denounced again the brutal tortures they were subjected to upon their detention, so they would sign self-inculpatory declarations. The journalists defended the independence and plurality of Egunkaria.
Torrealdai reported that, after being arrested by the Guardia Civil (military police corps), he had to get psychological treatment for a whole year, Otamendi reported the sexual abuses he was subject to while in detention, in addition to be forced to do physical exercise to the point of extenuation, Uria how he was applied "the bag" torture method ("controlled" asphyxia causing near death experiences once and again) and that he was threatened with a gun, including a simulated shot, that he was pointed with infrarred weapons and beaten with a telephone book (doesn't leave marks).
Uria declared that he has a long trajectory of working in Basque-language media (Argia, Egunkaria, Hamaika Telebista) and that he has never belonged to any political organization. He also recalled the birth of Egunkaria, when the platform Egunkaria Sortzen (creating the newspaper) was formed as a plural entity of some 70 people.
One of the accusations is that ETA appointed in fact the executive positions. Uria rejected that that was the case at all but that it was the late Joxemi Zumalabe who proposed him for vicedirector (later, in 1993, he became member of the administration council). He also reported that it was this council who elected Martxelo Otamendi as director of the newspaper.
He declared that in all the time he was in the decission-making structures of the newspaper he never heard of any sort of interference y ETA and that, would have been the case, he would have opposed it.
Oleaga reported that what the Spanish police wanted to get from the tortures he was subject to was that he signed that he was working in Egunkaria in 1993 and that it was Uria who proposed him. The reason for this was known to him later, because all the prosecution is based on some documents taken from ETA and dated to March 1993. However it was made evident from his social security records that he only began working at Egunkaria in 1995.
Otamendi's declaration focused on why Egunkaria has published interviews with ETA, as well as communications and excerpts from ETA's internal bulletin, Zutabe. He defended that such journalistic practices respond to a public interest and are well established in the Spanish and international jurispurdence and that journalists enjoy professional secret, so they can't be forced to reveal their sources.
The trial is due to cotinue today and in the following days. The solidarity with the persecuted journalists, both in and out of the Basque Country is overwhelming, naturally.