The approach of 143 ETA prisoners to prisons in the Basque Country and Navarra, or close to these communities, and the third degree granted by the Government to eight activists of the band during the past 2021 are not enough progress to “end the penitentiary policy of exception ”which, according to the social platforms that support these inmates of the terrorist gang, continues to apply to them when more than 10 years have passed since the end of ETA terrorism. Several thousand people who have participated this Saturday in the 191 mobilizations called by the Sare citizen network in as many towns in Euskadi, Navarra and the French Basque Country have demanded that the transfers of inmates be increased and the granting of permits be activated. The marches have run without incident, despite the fact that the PP had reported their celebration to the State Attorney General’s Office. The PNV, which years ago used to join this event, has decided this time to be absent because this type of initiative, said its parliamentarian Irune Berasaluze, hinder improvements in prison matters.
The demonstrations in favor of the ETA prisoners have been held when the Spanish Government continues with its plan to transfer the gang’s inmates to prisons close to their homes. 51% of the 194 ETA prisoners are serving sentences in prisons in the Basque Country and Navarra after agreeing to transfer seven ETA inmates on December 30, according to the latest count carried out by the Association of Victims of Terrorism (AVT) from the data provided by Penitentiary Institutions. Joseba Azkarraga, one of the spokesmen for Sare, the citizen network organizing the mobilizations, has recognized the steps that are being taken to bring ETA members closer and “alleviate the situation of many families”, but at the same time he has considered it “urgent” expedite these measures for “legal and humanitarian” reasons. As a counterpoint, he recalled that “only” 11 prisoners have managed to pass to the third grade: “With a normalized policy, more than a third [de los presos de ETA] he could be at home serving the remainder of their sentence ”, he commented.
The demonstration in Bilbao was the largest and was attended by representatives of EH Bildu and Elkarrekin Podemos and several unions, as well as Catalan sovereign organizations such as Junts per Catalunya, the CUP and the ANC. The assistants have chanted shouts demanding the return of the prisoners “home” and in favor of amnesty. The march was led by relatives of ETA prisoners lined up in rows, followed by a large banner with the slogan On the way (On the way). For health reasons, due to the high incidence of the coronavirus, the large concentration that used to be held in the capital of Biscay has been distributed, for the second consecutive year, in almost two hundred localities.
Azkarraga, spokesperson for Sare, has criticized during the march that “it is difficult to understand that 10 years after ETA’s decision to abandon its violent activity, an exceptional penitentiary policy is being carried out, with 50% of the prisoners outside the prisons of Euskal Herria and with a blockage in grade progressions ”. It has also regretted the actions of the Prosecutor’s Office and the central courts dependent on the National High Court for “paralyzing the degree progressions and prison permits that the prison treatment boards sometimes grant to prisoners, to the extent that some prisoners in the third degree have returned to jail and to the second degree penitentiary ”. “We do not ask for any privilege, only that the law be applied to them. We are claiming human rights. We are not facing political demands ”, he remarked.
The president of the PP, Pablo Casado, has criticized “impunity” in Spain that allows almost 200 rallies to be held this Saturday in favor of ETA prisoners, and has lamented that “850 innocents” have to see these demonstrations “in support of his murderers ”. The leader of the popular Basques, Carlos Iturgaiz, has affirmed that the objective of the demonstrations is to take the ETA prisoners “into the streets without paying for the heinous murders they committed.”
The mobilizations have been held on the 100th day since the Basque Government assumed the management of the three Basque prisons on October 1, where 81 prisoners of the gang are held. The organizers have trusted that the Basque political authorities develop “a prison policy without privileges but also without exceptions.” Sare, as Azkarraga has advanced, has set the objective in 2022 that the Executive of Urkullu make “a positive and humanitarian follow-up” of the situation of the prisoners “in accordance with the guidelines established by law.”
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The PNV, which now has the management of the Zaballa, Basauri and Martutene prisons, has not joined the mobilizations this time. Berasaluze explained that the nationalist formation will not participate in this type of act because “if you want to end the exceptionality of the penitentiary legislation that is applied to [a los reclusos de la banda]It is the moment of political negotiation, agreement and parliamentary work ”. He has demanded, of course, from the Spanish Government “the end of the exceptional penitentiary policy”, although he has opined that “some mobilizations in favor of the rights of prisoners may negatively affect the political work” necessary to reform the current prison regulations.
The PNV has accepted to attend a round table between politicians that Sare has organized in the morning at the Euskalduna Palace in Bilbao. In this same act, three victims of ETA have intervened, Robert Manrique (victim of the Hipercor attack), Naiara Zamarreño (daughter of PP mayor Manuel Zamarreño killed by ETA) and Rosa Lluch (daughter of former minister Ernest Lluch killed by the terrorist gang) , in addition to Maider García (daughter of Juan Carlos García Goena, murdered by the GAL) and Idoia Zabalza (sister of Mikel Zabalza, who died when he was detained by the Civil Guard). They have agreed that ETA prisoners deserve to be brought to prisons close to their homes if the law allows it. Manrique has stated that “the prison regulations are to be fulfilled.” And he added: “If the law allows the rapprochement of criminals, in this case terrorist, I have no problem. Of course, as long as they serve the sentence ”. At the end of this act, Azkarraga has asked “forgiveness” on behalf of Sare “to all the victims” for those initiatives organized by this platform that have been able to “delve into their suffering as victims.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.