- Created: Wednesday, 23 April 2014 10:09
- Written by FRFI
On 29 March 2014 Supporters of FRFI visited Bilbao in the Basque Country to attend a football match between Athletico Madrid and Bilbao's Athletic Club. This was a top of the table clash and an important match for Athletic but the minds of the supporters were on sadder things. The match coincided almost to the day with the second anniversary of the murder of Iñigo Cabacas (28) by the Ertzaina, the Basque riot police.
People gathered before the game outside the Kirruli, the pub of the left wing, anti-fascist supporters of Athletic, Herri Norte Taldea (HNT), to pay their respects at a recently unveiled plaque. It was at this spot two years ago that Iñigo, or "Pitu" as he was known to his friends, was hit in the head with a rubber bullet fired by the police. He had been celebrating Athletic’s Europa Cup victory over German side Schalke 04, which propelled them into the semi-finals.
A small scuffle broke out between two fans, nothing more serious than a bit of pushing according to all eye witness reports:
‘I witnessed what happened on Thursday. After the football match I agreed to meet my brother and girlfriend to have a drink at the Kirruli, as we use to, and just after arrival we saw two people, both wearing Athletic shirts, wrestling each other. People nagged at them as it was time of celebration and nothing else happened. We continued discussing the match, laughing... and some 5-10 minutes later, some four vans of Sepoys [slang for Basque police forces] [appeared], masked as a matter of course, and with the guns readied.’
Seizing on the opportunity the police, who regularly harass and assault members of the HNT group, indiscriminately opened fire into a crowd of hundred. One of the shots hit Pitu in the head.
‘It must be said that the area where [it] all happened is a narrow street and that they were shooting at head level from some 20-30 meters. People scattered around and soon (some 5 minutes later) we heard a girl asking for an ambulance. I and my brother went there and saw a person bleeding from the head. I and someone else ran towards [the riot police] asking for an ambulance and one said "it will come".’
When fans pleaded with police to call an ambulance they were then attacked with batons.
‘Not knowing what else to do we went back to the place where the body was, together with 6-7 other people, and suddenly I noticed how I was beaten with a baton on the arm and the back (from behind, while squatting). Raging, I told them: "look what you have done, you have killed him" and one of them replied "that I must see myself" and hit me twice again and sent me away. The ambulance had not yet arrived, not a siren could be heard either. Besides, the police vans impeded the access of any vehicle.’
Pitu died of his injuries four days later. This is not uncommon in the Basque Country where severe police brutality is the Spanish state’s way of dealing with independence activists and anyone who resists Spanish rule. HNT have regularly displayed banners supporting ETA, Palestine, repatriation of Basque prisoners and the Irish Republican struggle at their matches, as well as consistently confronting fascist hooligan groups (of which there are many in the Spanish premier league).
All the above point to a police force that were gunning for an opportunity to teach HNT and other Basque nationalist Athletic fans a lesson. Much like the treatment of all political activists in the Basque Country the call of ‘justice for Pitu’ seems to be falling on deaf ears.