Batasuna fights banning

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FRFI 171 February / March 2003

Batasuna, the Basque nationalist coalition, faces a two-year ban, with the possibility of it being extended to August 2007. The ban proscribes all Batasuna activity and members face prosecution as ‘supporters of terrorism’.

The nationalist left-wing party was banned on August 2002 under the Law of Parties [new legislation on political parties] introduced by the conservative government of José Maria Aznar (as reported in FRFI 169). Since then Batasuna and the grassroots movement involved with it have organised civil protests and are taking legal steps to challenge the ban.

On 14 September 2002, 40,000 marched in Bilbao. The region’s autonomous police attacked the demonstration, wounding dozens. Another march under the slogan ‘Democracy for the Basque Country – self-determination now!’ took place in San Sebastian on 11 November, involving 25,000-30,000 peaceful demonstrators. Originally banned, this demonstration was declared legal by the Basque High Court on the grounds that the banning of a party does not constitute the criminalisation of an individual’s right to demand self-determination. Activists continue to organise against police torture, fascism and the dispersal of Basque prisoners, in universities, local councils and even at the Spanish Embassy in London, where a picket was held on 16 November.

On 7 January, Batasuna’s lawyer challenged the Law of Parties as unconstitutional at the High Court. The judgment will be announced in April. The government wants to speed up the process to help ensure victory over nationalist forces in the autonomous municipal elections in May. A major purpose of the ban is to make it easier for pro-Spanish parties to take over the Basque Parliament, where they have never had a majority.

If Batasuna loses the appeal, the case will be taken to the Constitutional Court and then, if necessary, to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The only thing proved by the state is that Batasuna doesn’t condemn the armed actions of ETA, but rather places them in the context of the political conflict of the Basque Country, which in Strasbourg wouldn’t be enough to ban it, as shown in previous cases involving pro-Kurdish parties banned in Turkey.

Meanwhile the government continues its repression, encouraging the recently-privatised telecommunications company Telefonica to sabotage Batasuna’s website, and keeping militant prisoners far away from family and homeland. One such prisoner is Inigo Makazaga (24), held in Belmarsh Prison in London in category A special security conditions since April 2001. A member of Batasuna, accused without any evidence of belonging to an armed wing, Inigo is still awaiting extradition.

The reactionary Spanish government has found the imperialist war on terrorism a convenient excuse for stepping up repression against the Basque movement; privatisation; university, labour and health care reforms; anti-democratic involvement in two wars and ongoing police violence against anyone who opposes any of these measures.
Juanjo Rivas