Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Political trial against Otegi and other Basques begins in Madrid

The political trial against several Basque activists for allegedly having political meetings, which had been forbidden by the impossible to explain arbitrariness of Spanish laws and judiciary decisions, has begun today in Madrid. 

The accused are all in this photo:

From left to right, front to bottom: Miren Zabaleta, Arnaldo Otegi, Sonia Jacinto, Arkaitz Rodríguez, Txelui Moreno, Rafa Díez, Amaia Esnal and Mañel Serra. The last four are free on bail, while the rest are in prison. 

The Spanish accusation demands 10 years of prison for each of them, accusing them of forming an organization known as Bateragune (unity zone in Basque), whose objective would be to bring political confrontation to some sort of summit by means of neutralizing any space of the Basque Nationalist Left without ETA and the accumulation of forces through the constitution of a sovereignist pole under the subordinated to the goals and means of ETA.

A. Esnal, T. Moreno (glasses) and R. Díez (beard) arriving to tribunal
The first one to declare was labor union LAB's former Secretary General Rafa Díez, who did not reply to the prosecutor. Answering to the defense, he declared that he has indeed a wide relationship with Otegi in all dimensions and that they both agreed after the failed peace processes of earlier in this decade that a debate had to take place inside the Basque Nationalist Left. As Otegi was soon jailed, it was Díez who translated that debate through the political current, as well as to other political and social actors. 

This debate implied a rejection of the previous acceptance of armed struggle. Díez rejected that there was any sort of dependence of ETA in this process. He also rejected that they were part of any organization known as Bateragune (unity zone on Basque) as the prosecution claims.

He confirmed they had a meeting in August 5 2009, where they drafted what would later become the Declaration of Altsasu[es] agreed by the Basque Nationalist Left after due discussion.

Arkaitz Rodríguez was the second to declare, also ignoring the questions of the prosecution and confirming that there was an informal, open and unstructured group of discussion that promoted internal debate in the Basque Nationalist Left. He confirmed being in that meeting in August 2009 in LAB's see and rejected any sort of tutelage by ETA. 

A. Otegi
In the afternoon the trial continued with the declaration of Arnaldo Otegi, who did reply to the state attorney, unlike the other accused. 

He said that it was the former secretary general of Eusko Alkartasuna (EA, Basque Solidarity, social-democrats and separatists, now part of Bildu), Unai Arrieta, who proposed to him the formation of a sovereignist pole, while in a visit to prison. He acknowledged that initially we were not enthusiastic about the idea, because EA was then part of the Western Basque autonomous government together with the (right wing) EAJ-PNV.

Otegi also said that ETA believed that was possible to accumulate forces while keeping armed struggle and we did not.

He also admitted to have traveled to the Northern Basque Country in spite of a judicial ban because the challenge was to win that debate and there are causes that ask for risks.

When the state attorney, Vicente González Mora, suggested that the change of strategy in the Basque Nationalist Left was caused by police pressure, Otegi has rejected the idea accusing some factions of being needy of the pretexts that violence and ETA provide: the factions with no political arguments need imperatively that violence is possible. He added that the reality of the last two years (since the arrest): gives me the reason, not to you.

Answering to the defense, Arnaldo Otegi denied the existence of Bateragune nor that the entity so-called was supposed to replace the National Board of Batasuna.

Sonia Jacinto rejected the questions of the accusation but answering to the defense explained how was the debate and how police was keeping track of them all the time. 

Then Amaia Esnal made a brief declaration (only replying to the defense) where she rejected being member of the Basque Nationalist Left, claiming to be member only of Etxerat (back home, a platform claiming the return to the Basque Country of the many Basque prisoners scattered through Spain and France, many hundreds of kilometers away from their relatives and friends). She rejected ever having any meeting with the other accused. 

Demo in Donostia today: Basque Country Free!
Finally, Txelui Moreno has been unapologetic for taking part in the process of strategical change towards peaceful and democratic ways. He said that, for good or bad, when the Basque Nationalist Left makes a decision, it makes it happen. He acknowledged that the leader of this strategical change was surely Otegi first of all: I had the impression that he had something in mind and wanted to make sure if more people agreed with him.

The trial will continue tomorrow.

There have been demonstrations in all four Southern Basque regional capitals, plus Elgoibar. A national demonstration has been called for this weekend in Donostia. 

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

Update (Jun 28th):

In the second journey of the trial, the last accused finished with their declarations and came the turn of the first witnesses.

Mañel Serra rejected to answer to the accusation. He rejected to know what was Bateragune at all and declared that he visited LAB offices several times that year for work reasons. Several patrol cars crossed his path when he left a school meeting and he was arrested then to his surprise.

Miren Zabaleta also replied only to the defense. She confirmed that she is a licensed attorney since 2006 and that she had a long activist record in the student movement before that. She declared that it was Sonia Jacinto who put her in touch with Arnaldo Otegi with the intention of forming an intergenerational lobby of sorts.

She said that she agreed soon with this one on the need to change the strategy of the Basque Nationalist Left in order to unblock the political cul-de-sac. Then she and the rest proceeded to make consultations with other people, such as Adolfo Araiz, Floren Aoiz, Koldo Castañeda, etc. and that all opinions converged and reinforced their own.

She said that  none of the meetings was secret at all.

Later the first witnesses where questioned.

Rufi Etxebarria and attorney Jone Goirizelaia
Rufi Etxeberria emphasized that the debate now under trial was critical in deciding that armed struggle had to end for good. He added that the people new accused are the key people for this critical advance.

He said that this debate was the most important one in his life as political activist, something historical and of great transcendence.  He said that the very day in which Otegi was arrested, he asked him to take the rudder of the debate. 

Questioned by the judge, he rejected that ETA had any involvement whatsoever.

Replying to the accusation, he denied that there was any Bateragune coordinating this debate. He said that there was once upon a time an organ known by such name but that it was part of Ekin, a dissolved organization not anymore extant.

He said that the accused had forged a web of relationships that was crucial in the debate. He admitted to be one of the dynamizers of the later debate in which thousands took part.

Asked if ETA is part of the Basque Nationalist Left, he said that they are coincident in strategical goals, independence and socialism, but have no organic relation.

Ainara Oiz, childhood friend of Miren Zabaleta, declared that the she took letters from her home after the arrest in order to protect her privacy and no other reason.

Finally declared the Spanish policemen who executed the arrests. They could not produce any coherent picture of what happened, contradicting each other and confusing the incident with some followings to members of Segi (youth movement) in Sestao (an unrelated locality).

The trial will continue tomorrow with more police declarations.

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

Update (Jul 5): Police witness 19,242 (key in most political trials, probably a high secret services officer) sustains that all is exactly as in the 1960s and 1970s, which he interprets as  ETA being the avant-guard and the political movement a mere chorus, all the rest being mere adjustments.

Most of the accused were not even born in those dates of the fascist dictatorship and a police leak says that ETA has accepted that the political movement takes the lead.

Whatever the case, what 19,242 says is ultimately just his opinion because he has provided no evidence whatsoever. 

Source: Gara[es].

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