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Thursday, April 15, 2010

10 Basque prisoner rights militants arrested. Three attorneys among them. Two hospitalized after detention.

Ten Basque citizens related with the movement of support to prisoners were arrested yesterday by the Guardia Civil (military police) in Biscay and Gipuzkoa. Among them there are three attorneys, who were captured in their workplaces, and a teacher who had been "warned" in a previous irregular arrest and was taken at gunpoint before her young pupils.

Two of the arrested, Erramun Landa and Saioa Agirre, were brought tonight to the Basurto Hospital at Bilbao, what makes the usual suspicions of tortures more than likely. Erramun Landa, professor at the University of the Basque Country, is said to have a serious chronic illness, reason why the family has presented a demand of habeas corpus.

List of the arrested:
  • Arantxa Zulueta, attorney. Arrested at her office in Bilbao.
  • Naia Zurrriarain, former prisoner and co-worker of Zulueta. Arrested in the same office.
  • Two attorneys (unknown identities yet) arrested at Hernani.
  • José Luis Gallastegi, in charge of the fishing section of workers' union LAB and also former prisoner. Arrested at his office in Lekeitio.
  • Erramun Landa, professor of Arts and famous painter. Arrested in Bilbao.
  • Saioa Agirre, teacher. Arrested at her classroom in Sopela before all her young pupils. She had been "warned" by the Spanish police in a previous irregular detention and interrogation in the mountains.
  • Juan Mari Jauregi. Arrested at his home in Donostia (San Sebastian).
  • Asier Etxabe. Arrested in Donostia as well (no further details known yet).
  • Joxe Domingo Aizpurua, former prisoner. Arrested in Usurbil. The police beat two of his nephews in the event.
In most of the cases, the police did not show any arrest order. Only the case of Agirre was exceptional in this sense because she resisted arrest until such order was shown.

The operation was ordered by the judge of the Spanish Inquisition (Audiencia Nacional) Fernando Grande-Marlaska. All prisoners are incommunicated. While the procedure is under secrecy, official sources had no problem filtering the contents of it to the press and even making public declarations. According to these the ten arrested are accused of "belonging" or "collaborating" with ETA.

However, considering the nature of the arrests, most political and social organizations in the Basque Country have denounced them as a political operation meant to damage the possible negotiation process demanded by Basque society and international actors.

Teachers and students protested at the University against the arrests

Several protests took place during searchs and in other contexts. Basque autonomous police charged violently against those concentrated in Lekeitio.

Source: Gara[es] (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4).

Update (Apr 20): five of the arrested, plus another one later captured by French Police, have been left free, though in some cases the state attorney keeps the accusations. The people still arrested are the attorneys Jon Enparantza, Arantza Zulueta and Iker Sarriegi, along with Naia Zurriarain and Saioa Agirre.

Nothing is known yet of the declarations nor the state of the prisoners after five days in isolation in the infamous dungeons of the Spanish police.

The apparent lack of real substance of the accusation is underlined by the case of the only person arrested in French territory, David Plá, who was freed without charges after the French authorities saw no basis for the Spanish accusation. (Source).

Update (Apr 20): the arrested denounced threats of tortures, specifically the following techniques: "the bag" (axfisiation with a plastic bag), "the bathtube" (waterboarding), electrodes and beatings. The women among them also denounced sexual abuses. Gallastegi also denounced being forced to keep forced positions and make sit ups (source).

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