Friday, December 3

Former ETA leaders deny that lawyer Arantza Zulueta acted on behalf of the terrorist gang | Spain

The accused of integrating 'Halboka', the considered legal front of ETA, in the first session of the trial, held last July at the National Court.
The accused of integrating ‘Halboka’, the considered legal front of ETA, in the first session of the trial, held last July at the National Court.FERNANDO VILLAR / EFE

The former leaders of ETA Juan Lorenzo Lasa Mitxelena Txikierdi, Ana Belén Egüés Dolores, David Pla and Jon Salaberria have denied this Tuesday before the National Court that the lawyer Arantza Zulueta, the main accused of belonging to the so-called “legal front” of ETA, acted on behalf of the terrorist group and gave them any instruction from the armed organization while those were in prison. All have admitted that Zulueta informed them of the political situation in the Basque Country and limited himself to giving them legal advice. In no case, have the ETA express members agreed, the lawyer transmitted directives from the gang’s leadership to them. “My interlocution with Arantza Zulueta has been exclusively as a prisoner. He never passed me a note or communication from ETA, ″ said Lasa Mitxelena, a prominent leader of ETA, in the trial until his arrest in 1985.

Zulueta is accused of leading, along with seven other individuals, the legal arm of ETA called Halboka (an acronym in Basque for “Breaking the Walls, Soon the Street Fighters”), a structure presumably created in 2002 to maintain control and internal discipline of the prisoners of the terrorist gang. The facts that are now being judged date back to 2002, when, according to the prosecution’s brief, ETA replaced precisely the frente makos by the structure Halboka, whose responsible was allegedly Zulueta, considered a representative of the most intransigent sector of the left nationalist in those years. One of the subgroups of Halboka It was the “legal front”, made up of lawyers, who supposedly were dedicated to transmitting ETA guidelines to inmates to prevent them from taking individual reintegration measures and staying within the line established by the self-styled Collective of Political Prisoners Basques (EPPK, in its acronym in Basque).

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The Prosecutor’s Office asks for 19 years in prison for Zulueta for integration into a terrorist organization due to his status as a leader and for depositing weapons and explosives. For the rest of the defendants, among whom is the lawyer Jon Enparantza, the Public Ministry requests between 7 and 12 years in prison for their alleged membership of ETA or collaboration with the gang. In the same summary 13/13, Juan Mari Jauregi, who died this past Friday, was also prosecuted.

The former leaders of ETA and the rest of the witnesses proposed by the defense of the accused have assured this Tuesday that they are not aware that there was any relationship between the lawyer and the terrorist gang. Lasa Mitxelena, released since 2013 after spending 28 years in prison, has acknowledged that during his imprisonment he was elected a member of the team of spokesmen for the EPPK collective, of which, he said, some expelled members of ETA and “very critical people” were part. with the terrorist approaches of the gang. He has ensured that the debates that were held within the group of ETA prisoners “were carried abroad through the lawyers,” among which were Zulueta.

In this way, a meeting was held at the end of the 1990s with the Human Rights Commission of the Basque Parliament and a meeting in 2005 in the Granada prison “with representatives of Penitentiary Institutions” when Mercedes Gallizo was responsible for it with the PSOE in government. According to Lasa Mitxelena, “Arantza Zulueta followed the instructions of the group of Basque political prisoners and we were not ETA. The collective was totally autonomous ”. He recalled that in that meeting they transferred the claims of the prisoners to Penitentiary Institutions, among which he mentioned the recognition of the group of political prisoners, their reunification in Basque prisons and the freedom of the seriously ill and of those who had served three quarters parts of his sentence and of those who suffered from incurable diseases.

Lasa Mitxelena has admitted that during his time as an ETA activist he was a “qualified member” of this organization: “Even then he was very careful not to interfere in the lives of the prisoners.” With this statement he wanted to make it clear that the leadership of the terrorist gang did not usually meddle in the affairs of the prisoners. He has also affirmed that from the day he entered prison he stopped having a relationship with ETA, nor did he receive any instructions from the ETA leaders: “My relationship with ETA ends in jail.”

Ana Belén Egüés, also present as a representative of the EPPK at the 2005 meeting with Penitentiary Institutions, has followed the same argument of Lasa Mitxelena and assured that Zulueta was limited to advising him “legally and politically” while he was in prison. It has also had an impact on the fact that since he was part of the group of ETA prisoners he stopped having “any contact” with ETA and, therefore, he did not receive from his lawyer any instructions from the criminal organization.

David Pla, the last ETA political leader when he was arrested in 2015, has also testified that when he was an ETA militant (in the periods 2000-2006 and 2015-2019) “he did not know” the existence of Halboka, the so-called legal front of the band. Both Plá and Jon Salaberria, the latter arrested in 2008 together with Francisco López Peña Thierry, they have assured that they are not aware that the group of lawyers offered information to the gang about fled members, possible objectives to attack or efforts to collect the revolutionary tax, as stated in the accusatory report of the Prosecutor’s Office. Both have denied that they had an appointment in Mimizan (France) in May 2018, days before a meeting between Jon Enparantza and an alleged member of ETA in the surroundings of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd of San Sebastián. “It seems unlikely to me that lawyers were dedicated to recruiting people for ETA,” said Salaberria.

Defense witnesses have confirmed the existence of a “coordination group” (KT, for the acronym Koordinazio Taldea) that was dedicated to “transferring abroad”, explained Salaberria, “the activities and claims of the group of political prisoners Basques ”, but at the same time he“ flatly ”denied that this coordination team was part of the ETA structure:“ The group of Basque prisoners did not belong to ETA ”, stressed the former leader of Jarrai and Basque parliamentarian of the Extinct Herri Batasuna.

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